Community activists attend peaceful protest training

By Olivia Willoughby

The group 99% Spring of DeKalb and people from other parts of Illinois attended training for peaceful protesting.

The training took place Sunday at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 158 N. Fourth St.

Richard Gallati, one of the event’s organizers, said 99% Spring’s purpose is to develop a community of activists in coalition with one another. He said many times, activists have separate goals and some people may not support one another.

“Part of this training is how to bring all these people together,” Gallati said. “There are lots of groups and there’s a difficulty at connecting.”

During the training, Gallati presented a documentary, 99% Spring, that showed the history of how America’s own 99 percent has struggled against the government and corporations.

The documentary also gave several examples on ways to approach situations of protest.

“This is how it’s been done for the last 250 years,” Gallati said. “The whole point of the 99% Spring is to get a community of activists engaged in direct nonviolent protests.”

Gallati and Occupy Rockford member Bill Weiss said a nonviolent way to help get information out is to hand out fliers. Weiss said by interacting with others and handing fliers out, people can contribute greatly to the cause.

Weiss said because protesting can tire members out, they should only do what they can to help.

“Whenever a movement involves a lot of people, the people have a tendency to get burned out since there’s so much work to get done,” he said. “The people involved have to realize they’re burned out and not participate in everything. They should take part to the best of their ability.”

LaGrange resident Liz Hyink, said she has also been a part of rallies in the past. She said people should not only present their anger about an issue.

“I think passersby might not listen to the message because all they hear is the aggression,” Hyink said. “It can complicate the message.”

Hyink also said she appreciated Gallati’s discussion about escalating and de-escalating the aggression of a protest.

“We were given guidance about meditation on ideas and how to avoid emotional reactions,” she said.

Weiss said the peaceful protest can help build public support.

“It shares a message with newcomers,” he said. “So peaceful protesting is really like good public relations.”