Stop telling protesters to go home. Or don’t. It’s your right to speak freely.
Protests have sprung up all over the country in light of the recent election. The most common comments that I see on all news outlets are, “Go back home.” “Protesting is worthless.” “You’re wasting your time.” “Sore losers.” “Entitled.”
These people don’t seem to comprehend anything deeper than what the media shows. They refuse to open their eyes to very real and violent issues that are present right now in this country. Not the past. Not the future. Right now. I believe it is a mix of the media, of white privilege, and (a much more sinister) mix of fear and oppression. These same people, generally speaking, condemn protests that call out racism, homophobia, xenophobia and so on, saying that we are just being “cry babies,” are “making it up,” or are trying to “get attention,” ad infinitum. And these same people don’t have a single harsh word to say about the people that stand outside of Planned Parenthood every. single. day harassing women seeking healthcare for the past however many years. That kind of protest is fine because it is in line with their ideals. But speaking out against other forms of mistreatment “should be banned?”
People aren’t protesting because they are butt hurt that they lost a contest. This isn’t about competition. This is about human rights. This is about fear of being attacked because of what you look like, what you believe, and what you feel. There is no comparison between this election outcome and past elections; not even the ones where a Republican won. Because, again, this is not about politics, this is about the safety and civil liberties of the people in this country. We have a president-elect that has fueled these fires of hate and racism. He has empowered people to act on this fear and hatred without fear of consequence.
The First Amendment of our country’s constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
I feel like the First Amendment is being heavily challenged at the moment, and not in a good way. The government is trying to push a religious belief on the people of this country. They are trying to create fear surrounding other religions. They are trying to stop the right of the people to peaceably assemble. The right to petition the government feels like a non-existent entity. People get to run this country however they want without taking into consideration the civil liberties of all people. Just their own egos and personal agenda.
The new administration is threatening (yes, threatening) to sign a First Amendment Defense Act. This new Act is extremely dangerous, and a thousand steps backwards. It gives employers, health care providers. Landlords, federal contractors (basically anyone!) the freedom and protection of the government to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. How is this any different than refusing to serve a person food because they are African American? Are they going to start setting up a separate water fountain for someone because of who they love? It’s absolute insanity and it is an infringement on the freedoms of all people. Its sole purpose is to cater to a select minority of people that have disgusting morals (yep, it’s true. Welcome to the 21st century). You don’t have to agree with someone’s beliefs to treat them like the human beings they are. I don’t care if you are a cis, wealthy, white man; that gives you zero right to infringe on the rights of, say, an African American lesbian woman. Or Trans woman. Or Trans man. It is just beyond my comprehension how this could actually happen, but it appears to be happening. And we can’t be silent. People want us to be silent. They cry, “But what about my rights! Shouldn’t I be able to refuse renting out this apartment to someone because I don’t like that thing they wear on their head?” No, you should not be able to refuse an apartment to someone because of their religion. You should not be able to refuse a job to someone because of who they are attracted to (because who effing cares who someone is attracted too!). You should not be able to refuse a meal to someone because of the color of their skin. You should not be able to refuse healthcare to someone because they identify with a specific gender. You should not be able to stop any person that appears to be Latino and ask for proof of citizenship. It’s asinine. It really is.
I had a disagreement once with someone about a bakery refusing to make a cake for a gay couple. They said it was their right to refuse this service. They turned the question to me saying shouldn’t I have the right to refuse serving someone that was part of the KKK (because those things are so similar). But no, I don’t think we should be allowed to refuse service to someone because of what they believe. Yes, if they light a cross on fire in the middle of the restaurant, you can refuse them service. They are infringing on the civil liberties of other people in that case. As my old university psychology professor once said, “It’s perfectly legal to swing your fists. It becomes a problem when that fist is connected to someone else’s nose.” Our country is in turmoil, and for seemingly obvious reasons. The only people that don’t seem to be aware of the issues are the ones who have fully supported and voted for this outcome.
I have seen so many people saying that when President Obama was elected that no one protested. That they were nice and quiet. But those people are wrong. Maybe they didn’t notice because the protests were mainly against people of color. Or because the information wasn’t disseminated on conservative news outlets. Maybe they didn’t care that a predominately black church was torched in Massachusetts, or that a life-sized effigy of Obama was hung from a noose at the University of Kentucky. And those same people see these protests happening now, but are completely blinded to the racist backlash that is happening alongside it, as a result of this election. States have set up hotlines to report harassment and intimidation because of this election. People look to the President-elect, to his appointed advisers, to his constant hate speech throughout his entire campaign and they finally see that they are “free” to act out their darkest desires. They are free to rip a hijab from a woman’s head. They are free to bully immigrants and people of color in school. They are free to vandalize property belonging to non-white people. They vandalize the walls of schools, buildings, anything with a non-porous surface, spreading their hate, their racism, their homophobia, their xenophobia. I know a few people that said they don’t support that type of talk and treatment, but their actions (their vote) say otherwise.
The majority of protesters don’t condemn vandalism, violence, and destruction. Most of them believe that a protest should be unrelenting and peaceful. They believe in being the change that you wish to see in the world. Yes, there will always be a minority of people that are destructive. In these times, emotions are high and people act in the only way that they believe will make them feel heard. It doesn’t excuse it or make it okay, but it also isn’t the majority.
Protesting does effect change. It can come in many different forms; from individual statements to mass demonstration. Look at The Singing Revolution in Estonia in 1939. The March on Washington in 1963. Ghandi’s Salt March. The Orange Revolution in Ukraine. Woman Suffrage Parade of 1913. The Medals Heard around the World in 1968 (sounds familiar and with the same outraged reaction. Sigh). The Berlin Wall Protests.
Protesters (typically) stand up against injustice. They stand up for human rights. They stand up and get loud because no one is listening. And if the only way to make them listen is to assemble, then that’s what they should do! If we remain silent, nothing will change. So stop telling us to go home because “it makes no difference.” It makes a lot of difference. It creates allies. It shows those people that have been targeted that they are not alone. We won’t sit by and allow hate to rule. And you shouldn’t either.