Peaceful demos are a numbers game — they raise awareness of the number of people committed to change that is political and procedural. They are a constituency “flirting” with the political apparatus — an invitation to political courtship. Disruptive demos are about outrage. The two most often work together and how they work together within a given political context contributes to both effect and outcome.
Gosh, that sounds way too intellectual for a guy like me who’s been in jail with Black Panthers, been a propagandist for the anti-Vietnam War movement and run with a mob of environmental terrorists, but still, there it is — in my experience.
The Women’s March, for instance, made plain just how very many people were united in a general way around gender issues. It demonstrated that the constituency’s political potential was non-trivial — made it clear to the politicos that there was an ideologically disciplined mass of potential voters massed around a set of issues that provided a selection of political carrots and sticks. The biggest stick, perhaps, being that any ideological group that large had serious potential for dramatic disruption should some particular event provoke sufficient outrage. To the status quo, change and opposition themselves constitute disruption.
But the vector can go the other direction. BLM, for instance, was sparked into existence BY outrage. By persisting through one hideous outrage after another, BLM keeps that outrage in the public gaze. Some media consumers will be annoyed by that persistence, but the mind of even the most detached media consumer eventually notices that there’s an issue that really has people stirred up. For many, some episode, somewhere will cut through 24hr-news-cycle hypnosis deeply enough to provoke a “Yes! That’s outrageous!” response. Thus outrage grows the constituency, reaching toward the same goal as the peaceful process.
Peaceful & disruptive must work together. Militants are unwise to scoff at peaceful support — they should be aware that politics is addition and that love or fear of votes is the political animal’s real motivation. Numbers literally count.
Peace oriented demonstrators are unwise to try to take the “high moral ground” by being too quick to distance themselves from disruption and militancy. As a Black Power militant once taught me, “There be a time for loud talkin’,” and worse. There’s no point is making life easy and prosperous for the oppressor.
I think, in your project, everybody was right — as far as they went. The younger woman was right, today’s media lives of spectacle. What your particular situation was advocating, however, seemed short on legitimate outrage. (Though I have no idea why you needed to advocate those “civic values” through a political statement.) But you do seem to successfully built constituency, if the towns business owners supported you. What you did, the way you did it, seems right to me for the circumstance.