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Prolific Protests: Prosperous or Problematic?

Samantha Printz

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[ot-caption title=”Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Washington D.C. for the Women’s March protest on January 21. (via Ted Eytan)”]

The Constitution of the United States guarantees all people five fundamental freedoms in its First Amendment: freedom of speech, religion, press, petition, and assembly. Recently, with the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, many Americans and people all over the world have exercised their freedoms of speech and assembly. With each new president and political party in charge, there have always been dissenting groups that speak out against those in power. However, it is just the second month of 2017 and there has already been the largest protest in United States history following President Trump’s inauguration.  [spacer height=”20px”]

While some may argue that much of these protests have to do with people being unable to cope with November’s election results, others strongly feel that the protests are a form of justified resistance against some of President Trump’s controversial actions, including his sexist comments, his executive orders banning immigrants from seven majority-Muslim nations, and the advancement of construction for the Keystone and Dakota Access Pipelines. [spacer height=”20px”]

Some recent protests, including the UC Berkeley protest of a speech by Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos, have turned violent.  Mr. Spitzig gave his opinion about the protests, specifically in reference to the events at Berkeley, “Protests are fine. That’s what America is all about, but in regards to the recent Berkeley protest, I think that when you are using your freedom of speech right to infringe on other people’s freedom of speech, the protests become less effective and [more] hypocritical.” [spacer height=”20px”]

Others protests been solely peaceful in attempts to send strong, positive messages without violence or hate; two examples of such protests are The Women’s March and the airport protests. The Women’s March occurred the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. It is estimated that around 440,000 people marched in Washington D.C. in support of women’s rights, with 637 other sister marches in different cities, including many outside of the United States. Additionally, after Donald Trump’s executive order banning the entrance of visitors to America from seven different, majority-Muslim countries in the Middle East and Africa, protests erupted around the world. In the words of freshman Spencer Waldshan’s, “As long as the protests are peaceful, I think they’re fine, but once they turn into riots they aren’t.” Junior Jordan Moldow agrees, “They are good because protesting is a right that we have as citizens of America, but I think some of the protests are too aggressive, and there are better ways to access government.” [spacer height=”20px”]

According to the US Constitution, everyone has the right to assemble and to speak freely. When these two constitutional rights come together in the form of protests, the power goes to the people.  Isn’t that what the framers of the Constitution intended all along? As Junior Leah Schulman put it, “[Protests] are good as long as everyone stays safe, because of our fundamental rights.” [spacer height=”20px”]

The protests, whether or not they are peaceful, are clear in their efforts to send a strong message and make a powerful statement. The fact that anyone, no matter what age, gender, race, or religion, can participate in a protest for any cause that they are passionate about strongly demonstrates the American ideal of bringing people together for a common purpose. Freshman Lucus Abrams, commented, “It’s understandable for people to feel like they have to fight for their rights, which it’s fine as long as the protests stay peaceful, and [the protests] show that people want equality, which is a good sign.”  [spacer height=”20px”]

Whether or not you stand with disagree with the central messages and purposes of the protests, it is important to recognize the value of the demonstration of our First Amendment rights.  In places like Syria, where the people are much less fortunate, governments often deny free speech and disallow assembly. While conflicting views on a particular subject are always inevitable, it is important to appreciate and exercise the freedoms provided within the Constitution.  Though protest may, at times, seem to foster divisiveness, the Constitutional principles of protest are what truly unify the American people. [spacer height=”20px”]

Sources: Politicus USA, New York Times, The Telegraph, Politifact, VOA News, CNN, The Mercury News, Women’s March on Washington, The Daily Signal, Flickr

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Prolific Protests: Prosperous or Problematic?