Analysis


Dozens of Alabama students are bicycling up to 10 miles (16 kilometers) each way to their rural high school. An Indiana man was arrested for belting out a protest song, "Price Gouge'n," from the roof of a convenience store. A signmaker in Kentucky is riding his horse on business errands. And a Tennessee sheriff is investigating a more disturbing protest: A slain deer hanging from a gasoline station sign.

Those actions are being done in the name of protest, but three western Pennsylvania school officials who plan to walk 216 miles (348 kilometers) to raise awareness of the factors driving up gas prices do not want to call it a protest march.

"We're not standing up protesting gas prices," said Aaron Steinly, assistant principal of United Junior Senior High School near Johnstown. "We just want to raise awareness, show people what they can do and get people involved."

The school's principal, Lewis Kindja, said he and the other two administrators plan to raise money and perhaps meet with lawmakers on the nine-day walk to Washington, D.C., that begins June 5. The money raised will pay for classroom projects across the state about alternative fuels and environmental issues.

"If we don't start making changes, we're going to be in a difficult position down the road," Kindja said.

Rachel Einwohner, a Purdue University professor who teaches a class on the sociology of protest, said most protesters are "not just working towards the goal, like lowering gas prices, they're also making a statement about their collective identity, as environmentalists or however they see themselves."

Einwohner believes those who are driven to get off the couch for a cause are expressing their own identity. But other scholars, she says, believe protests and similar acts are driven by "selective incentives" byproducts not necessarily related to the protest.

Tracy Daar, 17, a junior at Elmore County High School in Eclectic, Alabama, said he started riding his bike to school a 12-mile (19-kilometer) round trip when gas prices hit $3.50 a gallon (3.8 liters) a couple weeks ago.

"It was just a way to save money at first, but when more people started doing it, it became more like a protest," Daar said. …

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