"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."
~ 1st Amendment, U.S. Constitution.
How We Make the People's Voices Heard
Since the beginning of the protests in Wisconsin of Scott Walker's Budget Repair Bill in February of 2011, there have been people with stories to tell in the Rotunda. Those voices were then magnified by a single megaphone and then two, then three. In a short time, they were replaced by a handheld speaker system, Eventually that too was replaced by a larger, more powerful portable PA system. Each of these incarnations have been dubbed the People's Mic and were operated and MC'd by members of the ASO even before it formally existed. We believe that the voice of the common man and woman needs to be heard regardless of power, wealth or political affiliation. When operating the People's Mic our MC's have never once turned down a single person who wished to have their voice heard, even those who wished to speak out against us.
It is in this spirit that the ASO continues to maintain and operate the latest incarnation of the People's Mic keeping it on hand in the event that the People's Voice needs to be amplified to make their public servants hear their stories in their own words. We believe that everyone has something to add to political discourse and not just those with power or influence deserve to have their voices amplified. The ASO is but the caretaker of the People's Mic, if you are holding a rally or event where you would like to set up the People's Mic the ASO would be glad, if possible, to loan the system along with an experienced People's Mic MC or two to help ensure the success of its use. Contact us for more information.
The People's Mic and its relation to the Occupy Protests was published here and draws from an email interview with our Com. Director.
The PA we're currently using is a MIPRO MA-7070PA battery-powered self-contained unit with an extension speaker and speaker stands. Any dynamic microphone will work; we use a Shure SM58. You will need:
- battery-powered PA - MIPRO and Anchor Liberty are a couple of major brands
- dynamic microphone - Shure SM58 or similar; with or without its own on/off switch
- XLR cable, female to male
- extension speaker - pointing each speaker in a different direction helps cover a wider area
- speaker stands - elevating the speakers to above head level helps the sound carry better through the crowd
- stereo 1/4" male to 1/8" male auxiliary cable - lets you plug in an iPod or laptop to play music or sound clips
Our entire system cost roughly $700. It is lightweight and can be easily transported at a moment's notice. It can be set up or packed up in less than 5 minutes. Trust us when we say that this detail can come in handy.
It's important that everyone has a chance to be heard. These tips will help you accomplish that:
- Be respectful of the public space in which you've chosen to set up. Cooperate with local law enforcement. Apply for any needed permits and emphasize that you are trying to support your fellow citizens' right to peaceful assembly and free speech. You are not trying to disrupt the peace or interfere with any kind of official government business. You are trying to let people's voices be heard and let their stories be told. Do not jeopardize this valuable tool for democracy with petty disagreements with local authorities. If you are asked to turn down the volume or leave, politely comply and work toward finding a more appropriate venue where your People's Mic can be run.
- One person should serve as the MC and at least one person should serve as a marshal for the line of speakers that forms.
- The MC should always get the mic back from each speaker after they're done. Do not let speakers hand the mic off to each other. The MC needs to maintain control and often will need to make announcements, especially for crowd control and safety depending on the event.
- If there is a long line of speakers, it can help if the line marshal keeps a clipboard where a simple record of each person's number in line and the time they joined the line is tracked. You can give them a receipt with this information as well and explain to them that it's a system for making sure no one has to wait too long to speak and everyone will speak in the order in which they joined the line.
- Do not cut off any speaker. They have a right to be heard. However, gently signal to them and ask them to wrap it up if they are taking an unusually long time. Explain to them that we want to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak in a timely manner.
- Show the speaker how they should hold the mic: level (pointing down their throat, not like an ice cream cone) and close to their mouth. This makes the largest improvement in sound quality and ensures they can be heard.
- Sanitize the microphone using a disinfectant wipe between each speaker. The closer they get the mic to their mouth, the better they will be heard. Their lips may often accidentally touch the grille of the mic. Also, keep a bottle of hand sanitizer handy for use before and after speakers hold the microphone. Help keep everyone healthy.
- Keep the speakers behind the plane of where the speakers are set up. Do not at any time let the mic be out in front of the PA and pointing at a speaker; this will cause squeals of feedback and damage both the PA and the crowd's hearing.
Let Us Know
The ASO wants to hear back from you. If you decided to set up a People's Mic in your community or your event we'd love to hear from you about how it went, what worked, what didn't and your overall impressions. Remember, before there was a formal org known as the ASO there was simply a group of people wishing to let everyone's voices be heard. Contact us with your story at info@ASOlidarity.org, who knows we may just publicize it on our front page!