As we start to move deeper and deeper into this period of political tension, we are seeing a resurgence of popular action. Protests are nothing new in the US; they go back as early as the Boston Tea Party, to Occupy Wall Street in 2011, and recently, protests have arisen opposing the election of Donald Trump or counter-protesting it. These events always attract huge crowds, and more members of the younger generations are becoming active by attending these protests.
We are the generation that is going to be most affected by the decisions the new administration makes, and the ones who are going to come of age in such a controversial political time period. so if we want to shape the world we are growing up in, protesting is a catalyst for change.
This change comes along with the visibility protests bring to an issue. A variety of issues that have been the subjects of protests may be irrelevant to some people, but once you see people stand together to speak for change, and putting real faces to real issues, our perspective on that issue changes. It also draws the eyes of the media, and of politicians, who are the ones who can take into account what the people want, and then have the power to make a direct change.
Undoubtedly, protesting is not the sole way to take action, but it is doing something. If you gripe about problems but then say protesting is useless, what are you doing instead? Showing up and standing in solidarity with others is easily more productive than sitting on a couch complaining about an issue.
Protests have also drawn a substantial amount of backlash, critics saying protests simply do nothing to help the cause. A study done by economists at Harvard University found that protests work because they get people politically active. They energize people, and motivate them to join their movement. These numbers grow, and as a result, protests entice interest in whatever issue it is that is being advocated for or against. While yes, the intent of protests are commonly misunderstood or misinterpreted, it makes public opinions heard, and if we don’t open up conversations about what we think is right or what isn’t, no one else is going to do it for us.
When it comes down to it, protesting is a constitutional right that we have as Americans, and it would be wrong to say that much of our progression as a country has not been driven by the actions of the people.