I know that just reading the title of this is going to be enough for some people to get angry over. Try and read the whole thing before you decide that the thing to do is leave an angry comment.
Protesting is as old a tradition as America has. We’ve been protesting since before we even became a nation, and there’s no chance that we’ll stop in the near future. By now you all know the format of these articles. So our first question is:
Why do people protest?
Now that’s an excellent question. People can protest for a number of reasons, but it all boils down to this: Something is happening that people don’t like, and they want to ensure that their voices are heard.
Why don’t they just call their Representatives?
That’s a great idea, but your question assumes that people aren’t doing that as well. And they are! In the wake of the inauguration of the 45th president of the US and the policy decisions he’s been making people have been calling their representatives so much that voice mails got filled to capacity. Even emails started bouncing back as mailboxes also got filled to capacity. That’s not even taking into account the Congressional Representatives that turned off their phones. So what do you do when your Representative isn’t taking your calls? Well, they’re supposed to turn up for Town Hall meetings to talk directly with their constituents concerning issues that affect them. Except a majority of Republican Representatives didn’t show up for those meetings.
So what can people do when their Representatives are actively avoiding them?
They can take to the streets and guarantee that their voices are heard. They can, say it with me, protest!
But what are they protesting about? They live in the greatest country in the world!
Let’s leave the statistics aside on how exactly America is #1. America may be a great place to live for a lot of people. It is not an ideal place to live if you’re a Person of Color interacting with the police. It’s not if you’re a member of the LGBTQ community. It’s not if you’re Muslim. It’s not if you’re an immigrant.
So what are these people protesting? They’re protesting massive amounts of systemic, societal injustice that is killing members of our community. They’re protesting the dehumanization of PoC and LGBTQ people by the media and by many politicians. They’re protesting a president who has mocked woman, immigrants, and various other groups. They’re protesting a world that only views certain people as people. They’re protesting a nation that makes claims at equality and that all people are created equal, and then fails to live up to that. They’re angry and they have a right to be. When Congress turns off its phones, the only recourse left to be heard is to march.
Why can’t they just protest like MLK Jr.?
They are. All these folk going out into the streets, marching, carrying signs, blocking traffic, disrupting your daily lives. Even the ones breaking windows. They are protesting just the way Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wanted them to.
No way! MLK would never have blocked traffic or disrupted people’s lives. He believed in non-violence.
I’m going to bullet point it here too.
- The Civil Rights movement caused massive economic disruption.
- It was seen by many as ‘extremism’
- Most people like Rosa Parks, who we celebrate today, were hated in their time
- The average American hated the Civil Rights Movement and insisted it would do more harm than good.
- The federal government put 19,000 troops on standby for the March on Washington. It terrified them.
When Dr. King led the Selma March they took up entire roads. They filled the entire width of the Edmund Peetus Bridge in Selma. They blocked the whole road.
So yeah, Dr. King encouraged his followers to be non-violent. He also never denounced a single riot done in the name of Civil Rights.
Yeah. On March 14, 1968, at Grosse Point High School Dr. King gave a speech in which he called riots “the voice of the unheard”. Dr. King would never have used violent measures himself, but he understood that when you’re fighting for your rights, and your right to live as equals in a society that doesn’t see you as people, sometimes you have to make a statement they cannot ignore. In a capitalist society such as ours, a good hit to the wallet is always felt. That’s why the Montgomery Bus Boycott was so successful, that’s why Lunch Counter Sit-ins worked. Dr. King preached civil disobedience. When the law is unjust or immoral or unethical, break the law. Legal and ethical are not the same thing.
But it’s Unamerican to break people’s property in protest.
That’s the most American thing ever! In 1773, in protest of British tea taxes, colonists dumped 340 chests of tea into Boston Harbor. They caused nearly $2 million of damage. We started this country by making an economic statement of protest.
Ok, but blocking traffic is dangerous. What if emergency services need to get through?
I could write a lot about that, but honestly, it’s already been done. Emergency crews are always let through when protestors are aware that there is an emergency crew that needs to be let through. These people are out there marching so that everyone can live a free and equal life. Would they really be the type of people to block emergency vehicles?
People block traffic so that you will be inconvenienced. So that you can’t help but notice. Too many people don’t see problems until it effects them. Well, we’re gonna make it affect you.
I’ve covered most of the questions I encounter in this discussion, but all these questions are smokescreens. They’re distractions from the real question.
Why can’t these people just stay out of my way and protest quietly over in the corner?
Because then you’d have no reason to listen.
These people are out there protesting a system that is KILLING THEIR NEIGHBORS. They are going to make damn sure that you hear us. If that involves blocking roads. We’re gonna do it. If that involves Punching Nazis, we’re gonna do it. If that involves being a nuisance and making your life more difficult, we’re gonna do that.
But even if we did protest in a way that didn’t inconvenience anyone, that didn’t block traffic or break anything, PEOPLE WOULD STILL COMPLAIN.
Colin Kaepernick protested by sitting during the National Anthem at an NFL game he was playing in. So obviously he was seen on camera, on National Television doing this. Who was hurt by that? Whose life was made more difficult? What was broken? Nothing. But the backlash was immense.
I’m going to finish this up by paraphrasing a quote from William Lloyd Garrison, and know that whatever criticism you have of protestors these days, this will be my response.
We are in earnest — We will not equivocate — We will not excuse — We will not retreat a single inch — AND WE WILL BE HEARD.