Victory in NYC! – The Power of Grassroots Activism

LogoI always avoid Central Park West in NYC where the carriage horse drivers line up hawking sales to tourists who are oblivious to truth behind this disgusting industry. Horses must work in hot humid temperatures and in the brutal cold – nine hours a day, seven days a week and go back to stuffy stable where they have no opportunity to lie down. Over the years, there have been many accidents where both horses and people have been seriously injured and some in which horses have died.

Sadly, the City of New York continues to allow this outdated industry that dates back to another century when there were far fewer vehicles and pedestrians.

Fortunately, there are compassionate individuals who continue to fight the battle on behalf of these magnificent creatures. One effective nonprofit is the Coalition to Ban Carriage-Horses.  This organization is an example of how nonprofits and organized grass-roots activism CAN make a difference.

Here’s the story: A few years ago, The ASPCA donated an engraved water trough for the horses in Central Park, using the event as a hook to generate press coverage and donations. Years later, the trough was bone dry and used as a trash receptacle. When The Coalition to Ban Carriage-Horses learned of this, they stepped in and reached out to the ASPCA and Central Park Conservancy urging the restoration of fresh water for the horses in the troughs. Neither organization took action.

The Coalition organized it’s members via email and social media asking for assistance in calling the offices of the Central Park Conservancy and City politicians with letters and emails demanding that the dry water trough for horses in Central Park be kept filled with water. One year later—victory! As of this week, it is expected that the water will be restored to the two troughs in Central Park.

In an interview to, the President of the Coalition stated:
“While I am grateful to the Central Park Conservancy for finally seeing the urgency of this request – to provide water to the horses at this site – I can’t help but be astounded that it took me over one year of phone calls and e-mails, which culminated in a grass roots campaign, to have them pay attention.

Read the full article.

Is shameful that it took one year to see action on this issue? Absolutely! But there’s a lesson here, if you’re fighting for a cause you believe in.  Community organizing is a highly effective tactic when properly executed. Here are some tips:

  • Utilize social media and the mainstream media to keep the pressure on your targeted opposition.
  • Organize your supporters – keep them informed via regular communications.
  • Give your supporters explicit directions (ie: calling/emailing elected officials) and make it as easy as possible for them to follow through (ie: provide the phone numbers and email addresses for your targets).
  • Always maintain a professional tone when communicating.
  • Don’t back down. Be persistent, stay focused and persevere on behalf of your cause.


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