How to Cope With Noisy Counter Demonstrators?

Yesterday evening there were at least two events that Granny Peace Brigade members wanted to attend. (Nothing new about that.) Since she hasn’t figured out yet how to be in two places at the same time, Bev went to the demo at the Federal Building – 26 Federal Plaza to protest FBI raids and harassment of antiwar activists in Chicago and Minneapolis.

Meanwhile, Barbara H, Joan P and I (our two-places-at-once skills aren’t so great either) tottered out to Brooklyn to join CodePink NY, Brooklyn for Peace and others for the Stolen Beauty AHAVA Boycott Campaign outside the Ricky’s store on Montague Street.



Counter demonstrators showed up at Ricky’s.


There was a lot of hollering. We had to chant really loud to compete with the noisy, ardent counter demonstrators. It was hard. It was tiring. Our voices started to give out. But we carried on.

As we were leaving one of the organizers suggested that next time we should have a sound permit.

Here’s my question:

Is using amplified sound to cope with noisy counter demonstrators a good idea?

This is a general question about street demos where we expect counter demonstrators. My concern is that by cranking up a sound system we might alienate the people we are trying to reach. Maybe we should work on having the best chants and songs (Corinne, Mercy — head’s up)…  and pack along some throat lozenges.

What do you think?

– Eva-Lee Baird
for the Granny Peace Brigade

7 thoughts on “How to Cope With Noisy Counter Demonstrators?

  1. Sometimes I like responses that are contrary. For example, if they start yelling at you, everyone in your own group might stand still and be very silent, suddenly, so it is noticed.

    Or maybe just hum a spiritual sounding melody. I had one in mind but it escaped from my mind. When it comes back, I’ll post another comment.


  2. I think it was “Amazing Grace” that was in my mind before. But how about some old testament psalms for this group that say something about charity, peace, etc.


  3. A shouting match turns off the passersby and THEY are the target audience – not the hecklers. If there is no street to separate one group from the other and we’re outnumbered, then it’s our signage and flyers that will have to convey the message.

    It’s not worth getting a sore throat !


  4. 1. We would need to purchase and trudge the equipment about.
    2. When used without little “know how” and “prepared” speeches, sound equipment can be just noisey and unpredictable.
    3. Chants from one and all don’t come out over well with speech equipment as we’ve all experienced at rallies.
    4. Shouting doesn’t win hearts and minds. Our goodwill and truth in messaging might!


  5. I like the idea of resisting the urge to shout over the others.
    The humming of “amazing grace” is a good idea. Good signs tell the tale and give a clear message.
    Some smooth coordinated arm movements that are like a hummmm (a tai chi like circular overhead shape) would provide a good counter-counter.


  6. Shouting, raising voices is not productive. Idea is reaching out to passersby with the handout, ‘Hello’, smiling, and trying for a minute to share message info. Sound system is not a good idea for the reasons Bev stated.


  7. Amplified sound can irritate passersby. It also makes demonstrations more autocratic, less democratic. The person with the microphone becomes the leader and everyone else a follower. Also there is the danger that someone with out of control performance hunger will get a hold of the mic and blather on and on and on or sing and sing and sing — off key.


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