Protests in America today have become impossible to ignore. I personally can’t recall a time in my life when there were so many protests in such a short amount of time. The catalysts and concerns of these protests are varied and the levels of violence inflicted have ranged from high to none. However, what all of these marches, vigils and even riots have in common is that they were all put into motion in response to the political and social climate created by President Donald Trump’s election and subsequent inauguration on Jan. 20. What has been on my mind recently regarding these protests is the atmosphere that they have created and what it means for us as a nation. There are really only two opinions that can be held — either you think that the protests are great or you think that they’re trivial. I believe that there is one key issue with both sides; namely that both of these opinions can be misunderstood unless it is truly stated what these protests are meant to accomplish. Protesting is not only our democratic right, but also a rich part of our country’s history, from the Boston Tea Party to Martin Luther King, Jr.’s March on Washington. Therefore, I believe that they should not be taken lightly.

The first of these recent rounds of protests actually began on the day of the inauguration, making a clear statement as to what was the cause for the unrest. The day after, the Women’s March on Washington occurred, and quickly surpassed all numerical and locational estimates, with approximately 2.9 million people total participating in marches all over the country and around the world, spanning all 50 states and all seven continents — even Antarctica, according to an article from CNN Politics. Some of the most recent protests included the airport gatherings to protest Trump’s executive order concerning immigration last weekend, along with subsequent protests in D.C. and even one right here on Fairfield’s Campus — a Candlelight Vigil, organized and attended by students and faculty alike.

A common opinion that I’ve heard over the past few weeks is that protests such as these are unimportant and immature because they are dividing us and not accomplishing anything to make the situation that they are protesting any better. I will not deny that there is truth to that statement. These protests do cause a division between those who believe that there is a problem worth protesting — whether or not they actually attend a protest — and people who do not. Also, it is true that — so far — these protests have had little success in changing our political and social atmosphere. Trump is still our president and the executive orders that he signed during his first few days as president don’t appear to be changing any time soon. However, it is important to realize that the division that I speak of shouldn’t necessarily be seen as negative.

Taking a stand on any issue will cause a division of some kind. These divisions are just larger, public and covered heavily by the media, drawing stronger reactions from the general public. As for the actual purpose that these protests are serving, excluding the violent ones, I don’t believe that the majority of people who participate in these protests, whether it be marches, vigils or what have you, actually expect an immediate granting of their requests. The fact of the matter is that protests just aren’t practical solutions to problems and should not be considered something that will result in immediate change. Rather, protests are a way to raise awareness for a problem. They allow people to show solidarity for an oppressed or marginalized group of people. They give people a chance to get out from behind their computer screens and show that they are capable of taking the time to show how important a cause is to them.

Right now, we have seen protests from both sides of the spectrum — contrary to popular belief, it’s not just liberals who are protesting. It has gotten to the point that now there are conservatives responding to the liberal protests with their own, an example being the Marches for Life that followed the Women’s Marches, protesting on behalf of anti-abortion, instead of the right to choose, as was largely the cry of the Women’s Marches. However, the truth is that protesters don’t need a political label, they just need to stand up for what they believe in and stand tall. Whether they are right or wrong is left to debate and debates there will be — many of them, I am sure, occurring in the near future.

As mentioned previously, these protests are part of a legacy of similar protests throughout our country’s history and like those that have come before, these are only the first step in a long process of change, but I believe that as such, they are an important step and should not be shamed or trivialized. If people are mobilizing, it means that they believe strongly in the cause that they are supporting and we cannot let ourselves drift from democracy so far that we don’t take seriously the voices of our people.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.