A call for peaceful protesting

Samantha Woolford, Contributing Writer

The word peaceful is defined as, “free from disturbance; tranquil; not involving war or violence.” Under the Constitution of the United States, Americans have every right to a peaceful protest (key word: peaceful).  It is no surprise that some people are upset – their candidate did not win, and they disagree vehemently with President Trump’s policies and decisions. People are protesting, some more peacefully than others.

However, violence has occurred at several recent protests. When a situation turns violent, then the person inciting violence is no longer protected by the First Amendment right of peaceful assembly – they have officially crossed a line towards felonies and misdemeanors. The bottom line: you can’t be violent and not expect consequences.

Shia LaBeouf was arrested for assault at an anti-Trump protest. He and another man, a Trump supporter, got into a verbal disagreement, which somehow ended with LaBeouf acting out violently towards the man. A limo was set on fire, and the driver, a Muslim immigrant, was both injured and emotionally shaken up from the attack he experienced. In addition to these instances, businesses have experienced forced entry and policemen have been harassed.

What did these innocent individuals do to deserve these assailments? Why do protesters go after businesses, limo drivers, or anyone else but the subject of their protest? There is nothing logical behind these actions, and maybe people are so angry and upset that they cannot rationalize what they are doing. At a time when unity is most important in America, these horrendous acts of aggression do nothing more than instigate a huge divide.

Martin Luther King Jr., a man who protested unjust laws and who actually made a significant difference in the United States, said, “Nonviolence means avoiding not only external physical violence but also internal violence of spirit. You not only refuse to shoot a man, but you refuse to hate him.” Many people protesting talk about how President Trump is a racist, a sexist, and his actions warrant disgust.

Yet, their own actions are driven by hatred. They want to make a difference and be heard, and that is such a noble thing, yet it is the peaceful protesters who are going to make a difference. When a child comes to you and talks about what is bothering him,  you are more driven to listen to him and try to understand his problem, than if he threw a tantrum. So, think of protesting in this context. Think of all the situations in which talking things out peacefully has worked: isn’t that the best way to avoid violence? Americans are waging an ideological war, and it is completely unnecessary. This is a time to be unified.

The best way a group of people can make their voices heard is to peacefully protest and speak with their respective representatives. It is important to speak up when you believe in something – it is the freedom granted to the people by the First Amendment that allows this very article to be published, even if people might disagree. The take-home message is simple: if you want to protest, please do it in a peaceful manner.

Peaceful protests sparked the end of segregation and the right of women to vote. Exercise your rights, but remember what you are trying to change. Remember that businesses did not wrong you, that limousines driven by immigrants did not harm you, and maybe you hate Trump supporters, but remember not to harm them or anyone else. Your rights only extend to peaceful protesting.

Editor’s note: The print version of this article did not include the fact that the driver of the limo that was set on fire was a Muslim immigrant.

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