After interning with the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California in 2006, my interest in civil liberties and the struggles that others have endured to preserve them over the years peaked. It was after this experience that I began to seek out others that could augment my existing interest in the law, including activism.
In early September 2008 the Republican National Convention was held in St. Paul, Minn. Armed with a camera and a few spare hours, I headed to St. Paul to photograph the events surrounding the convention. It wasn’t until I arrived that I discovered hundreds of protestors, both in downtown St. Paul and on the front lawn of the State Capitol. Many of the protestors were civil and presented their objections respectfully on signs or through orchestrated chanting. It wasn’t until armed police forced their way into the crowds did I observe discord.
With perfect timing, the ACLU of Minnesota announced its offering of an Activist Training course. Given my displeasure with the events that I observed during the previous week, I was eager to attend. At the training, Joshua Spaulding of the ACLU’s National Office in Washington, D.C. offered several ideas for how local activists could mobilize others into action. The first step in this process is to articulate an “ask” question. This question consists of a call to action that is couched within the agenda of the asker in hopes of positioning the recipient to actually act.
At its end, I felt much more confident in my ability to approach friends, colleagues, and even my elected officials and ask of them what may previously have felt impossible – to take action. Instead of combating police at protest, empower others to effect change through your own passion for the issue. It all begins with an “ask.”
If you’d like to attend an Activist Training course, our next trainings are this Saturday, September 27, in Novi, Mi., and Columbia, Mo., and Sunday, September 28, in Kansas City, Mo.