Experiencing Protest Fatigue? Organizers Behind Sunday’s “Build Bridges Not Walls” Picnic At The Continental Bridge Swear Their Event Isn’t A Protest.

It’s not a protest.It’s not a rally. It’s not a march. It’s just lunch with strangers you wouldn’t normally meet.

Well, that’s what Rob Shearer hopes it’s like for those who attend the “Build Bridges Not Walls” picnic scheduled for this Sunday at the Continental Bridge over the Trinity River.

The idea for the picnic came about after Shearer, who had never before attended a protest, was among the many who went to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport last weekend to demand the release of detainees who found themselves in travel limbo due to President Donald Trump’s travel ban.

“I was struck by the variety of people because they would probably not come across each other otherwise,” Shearer says. “Afterward, I wondered when there might be an opportunity to connect like that on a personal, human level with people.”

Shearer concedes that he also attended the women’s march in Dallas with his wife and three daughters. But he says he doesn’t count that as participating in a protest — mostly, he says, because it felt more like a parade than anything.

And so he came up with this idea that could potentially bring in more than the usual protester crowd.

“I definitely wanted it to be a spot where kids and families would feel comfortable,” Shearer says. “I felt it should be more about discourse rather than angry mob protesting.”

Shearer says that, given Dallas’ segregated structure and ongoing gentrification battles, he hopes the event helps bridge the gap between Dallas residents.

“I’m open to seeing my own privilege and I’ve been called out before as a gentrifier,” Shearer says. “But I hope that others recognize their roles and we can stay in this conversation and we end up finding ways to connect with other neighborhoods.”

Looking past Sunday, Shearer says he feels people should be focused on long-term goals like the mobilizing the vote for the local and midterm elections instead of burning out through constant protest.

“I’m hoping this helps evolve protests on some level because that’s what needs to happen,” Shearer says. “It needs to be less protesting and finding more common ground, and not so much about being in opposition of something.”

Cover photo by Rob Martinez.

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