When conducting a protest, it is key to remember that all eyes are on you. Anything you say and do can and will be used to represent your cause.
This is especially true when your movement is highly controversial and is a receiving a fairly large amount of media attention.
This was the case with the protests that occurred in the University of Missouri in November.
The protests, which focused primarily on the tense race relations of the campus, received a large amount of media attention.
One incident from these protests that the media focused on was the actions of Melissa Click, a communications professor at the university.
In a video taken by a student journalist, Click is seen grabbing the student’s cellphone and telling him that he is not allowed to be in the protest area. After he says otherwise, she is seen saying that she “needs some muscle” in order to remove the student from the area.
This was by no means the first time that Click had been aggressive at a protest. The Columbia Police Department released video of Click verbally assaulting a police officer during a protest.
The entire situation has been unfortunate for Click. In light of her suspension from the university, she has enlisted the aid of a public relations firm to clear her image, according to The New York Times.
The video with the police officer has made that task even more difficult for her, as it makes it harder to believe this was just one unfortunate mistake.
For all her faults, however, Click’s story exposes the broader issue of media coverage of protests.
Click is an example of the media taking one extreme event or individual and centering the narrative around that one point.
The same was done with the Ferguson protests, which have unfortunately been labelled the “Ferguson riots” by many media organizations.
The actions of opportunistic looters, who had no real connection to the overall protest at hand, were taken to be the focus of media attention.
This is a shame, as the actual protesters were trying to impart an important message to the world about race relations and racism by the police.
The same can be said for the Missouri protests, which should have been centered around the righteous anger of the protesters over race. However it became the story of one woman making a fool of herself.
A protest should never be able to be about one single person, it should be about one united group, fighting for an issue.
Due to the sensationalist nature of the media, however, this is almost never the case.
Especially in the age of social media when anything can be recorded. Almost anyone can come to be the mouthpiece of a movement, even those who don’t particularly represent it.
Click, as a professor specializing in mass media of all things, should have known that and acted accordingly.
But she did not, and even three months later Click is still the focus of news organizations instead of the protests.
So learn a lesson from Click. When it comes to protesting, or representing an organization of movement of any kind, you always have watch yourself to make sure you act in a way that truly advances the cause in an effective way.
In a better world, the media would do a better job of placing events in context. Since that is not the world we live in at this point, it is important for protesters to understand the ways media will pick up on their behavior to undermine their cause.
Russell, a freshman journalism major from Charlotte, is an opinion writer.