Knoxville has a much larger network of organized protesters than many people may think. This was evidenced during President Bush’s recent visit to Knoxville to promote volunteerism, when he was interrupted by two organized protesters shouting “free hot lunches!”
Since that time, the underground network of protesters has grown considerably, and they line up to protest everything from Universe Knoxville (which is a project some of them do not realize has already been stopped) to things the country might do, like go to war some day.
According to research, the Knoxville area protest network has a listserv that sends notifications to available participants for the latest protest. They are given instructions on how to dress, where to meet, the topic of the protest, the odds of arrest or teargas usage, and suggested sign slogans. Each participant is expected to keep a supply of posterboard, Sharpies, sticks, and glue or tape on hand for quicker response.
Ariel Smathers, an activist from Karns, was recently confused by the cryptic email instructions she received from the list. “I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be protesting,” she explained. “It could have been an anti-abortion, pro-abortion, genetic research, or war protest. Since I wasn’t sure, I just grabbed a few signs and headed for the rendezvous point. Unfortunately, it was a war protest and I was not prepared. It was embarrassing. The system let me down.”
|A confused Ariel Smathers realizes she brought the wrong
She went on to explain that she did not want to participate in war protests because there is not a war to protest yet. “It makes no sense to me to protest something that hasn’t happened yet, like the war with Iraq. I mean, that may not actually ever happen. For all I can tell, Bush is still giving peace a chance. Of course I didn’t say that then. I just made an excuse and left.”
The owner of the listserv is known only to members as “Fight the Machine,” and he refused to allow a phone interview. Through an email, he said that they try to stay as organized as possible, but sometimes when they are really buzzing, things might get a little muddled.
As for Ms. Smathers, “Hopefully the list owners will sort through this problem and I’ll be able to show up with the right signs next time.”