This past weekend’s Families Belong Together demonstrations against Trump’s “zero-tolerance” immigration policies brought huge numbers of protesters out into the streets all around the United States for the fourth time this year. But what exactly does all the marching do, and how will it help the resistance win?

There have now been well over 20,000 protests since Trump took office, according to data from the Crowd Counting Consortium, involving some 15 million participants, in every corner of the country. Until the Women’s Marches that kicked off the resistance in January 2017, the country had almost never witnessed coordinated protests in more than 200 locations in a single day; over the last year and half, the resistance has broken this record time and time again. On 30 June, people marched against family separation and detention in more than 750 communities, from big cities like Chicago and Los Angeles to tiny towns like Antler, North Dakota, where 15 of the town’s 28 inhabitants turned out to take a stand.

The numbers are impressive, but if anyone thinks that mobilizations like these will miraculously lead Donald Trump to do an about-face on any of his policies, they are in for a disappointment: change typically doesn’t happen that way.

Mass marches in America, no matter how large, have almost never worked as short-term pressure tactics. Yes, the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act followed on the heels of the historic 1963 March on Washington, where Dr Martin Luther King Jr delivered his legendary I Have a Dream speech, but the influence of the march on the legislative victories was an indirect one.

Mass marches function first and foremost as movement-building tactics, giving people an immediate bodily sense of being part of something larger than themselves, a palpable experience of collective power. They’re an antidote to despair, countering the sense of paralysis that can come all too easily when the news is as demoralizing as it has been. When marches are effective, it’s because they feed into longer-term strategies, strengthening people’s willingness to undertake the other kinds of work that produce concrete change.

Until recently, the principal strategy of the grassroots resistance to Trump has been an electoral one: building toward the midterm elections, in the hope of electing a wave of progressives in November. At marches all around the country last weekend, people chanted “Vote, vote, vote!” and many participants redoubled their commitment to the essential but unglamorous work of making that happen.

After her stunning upset victory last week in a New York Democratic primary, progressive candidate Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez reminded people of the labor-intensive door-to-door outreach it took to win, posting photographs on Twitter of her worn-out first pair of campaign shoes and writing: “Respect the hustle.”

The horrors of forced family separation and the looming battle over the next supreme court nominee are leading many groups and individuals to realize that a second kind of strategy is needed as well, a civil resistance strategy based on wide-scale non-cooperation, the kind that has been used all around the world to counter authoritarian regimes.

—LA Kauffman, Dear resistance: marching is not enough

We all have made serious mistakes and hurt other people, intentionally or not. We get a chance to learn from them when those around us respond with kindness and patience. Where is our humility when examining the mistakes of others? Why do we position ourselves as morally superior to the un-woke? Who of us came into the world fully awake?

There are also some online publications of dogmatic activism that could be considered sacred texts. For example, the intersectional site Everyday Feminism receives millions of views a month. It features more than 40 talented writers who pen essays on a wide range of anti-oppression topics, zeroing in on ones that haven’t yet broached larger activist conversations online. When Everyday Feminism articles are shared among my friends, I feel both grateful that the conversation is sparking and also very belittled. Nearly all of their articles follow a standard structure: an instructive title, list of problematic or suggested behaviors, and a final statement of hard opinion. The titles, the educational tone, and the prescriptive checklists contribute to creating the idea that there is only one way to think about and do activism. And it’s a swiftly moving target that is always just out of reach. In trying to liberate readers from the legitimately oppressive structures, I worry that sites like Everyday Feminism are replacing them with equally restrictive orthodoxy on the other end of the political spectrum.

At this year’s Allied Media Conference, BLM co-founder Alicia Garza gave an explosive speech to a theatre full of brilliant and passionate organizers. She urged us to set aside our distrust and critique of newer activists and accept that they will hurt and disappoint us. Don’t shut them out because their politics are outdated or they don’t wield the same language. If we are interested in building the mass movements needed to destroy mass oppression, our movements must include people not like us, people with whom we will never fully agree, and people with whom we have conflict. That’s a much higher calling than railing at people from a distance and labeling them as wrong. Ultimately, according to Garza, building a movement is about restoring humanity to all of us, even to those of us who have been inhumane. Movements are where people are called to be transformed in service of liberation of themselves and others.

–Frances Lee,  Excommunicate Me from the Church of Social Justice