"Protests Don't Work": A Response

“Protests don’t work. Nothing will change from this.”

The history and development of the USA have shown that peaceful protests do work. According to the Washington Post, social movements do leave lasting effects and can create long-lasting political change. The US civil rights movement was used as an example. Through a compilation of data (via Shom Mazumder), it was drawn that these were the things found among White people from countries that had peaceful protests 50 years ago, during the civil rights movement (all of these are from this article):

  •  less racism (measured by standard racism scales used by political scientists and psychologists)

  • 2.5% more likelihood of supporting affirmative action

  • 3% more likelihood of identifying in the Democratic Party today

       Most successful protests depend upon whether or not there is good organization (take the Hong Kong protests as an example), good communication/messaging, and nonviolence. Even at this point, we can see how much these protests have sped up the progression of the movement. On June 2nd, 2020, New Jersey announced that they would be initiating a new reform for the law enforcement program, as well as proposing a licensing program. By the end of the year, they will be updating their use-of-force policies for the first time in two decades. In addition to new reforms, all four cops who were responsible for the murder of George Floyd are now facing charges due to the extreme amount of pressure the people of the nation put upon the Minnesota authorities. In any other circumstance, this case would have most likely fallen into the 99% of police killings that don’t face charges. Even though this isn’t nearly enough justice for all of the oppression the Black community has gone through, it’s progress.

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“Violent protests never work. There’s no reason to get so violent.”

Allow me to remind you how this country was formed through a series of quick history highlights.

  • The Stamp Act Riots (1765): At the time, all printed material in America was supposed to be taxed for Britain’s gain. Because of this, riots erupted in the streets of New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Philadelphia, and elsewhere. Through these riots and protests, Congress formed a declaration, the Stamp Act, regarding why Britain had no right to tax Americans at all. This was a huge foundation and stepping stone for the American Revolution.

  • The Boston Tea Party (1773): American colonists were frustrated and infuriated with the British for imposing “taxation without representation”. Their voices weren’t being heard. In retaliation, they dumped 342 chests of tea that had been imported by the British East India Company into the Boston harbor. This caused around $2 million in destroyed tea. It led to the rally of the original 13 colonies overthrowing British rule.

  • The Pennsylvania Mutiny (1783): Soldiers who had fought in the Revolutionary War started a riot against the Congress of Confederation, who, at the time, was based in Philadelphia. This was because Congress was being completely unjust as they had not paid them. 400 of them marched to Congress’ base, but without the support of the state of Pennsylvania, they fled the scene. Because of Pennsylvania’s refusal, the idea that the federal government needed to have its own special district as a base was placed in the Constitution. This came to life as Washington, D.C.

  • The Women’s Suffrage Parade (1913): Thousands of women gathered in Washington D.C. to call for a constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote. Alice Paul and the National American Woman Suffrage Association spearheaded the massive effort. Over 5000 suffragettes lined up on Pennsylvania Avenue, along with over 20 parade floats, nine bands, and four mounted brigades. This parade was strategically hosted the day before the inauguration of president-elect Woodrow Wilson, maximizing attention on the march. The spectators were not very welcoming to the marchers, and some were jostled, tripped, and violently attacked while police on the parade route did little to help. By the end of the day, over 100 marchers were hospitalized for injuries. Seven years later, the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified on August 18, 1920. Historians credit the 1913 parade for giving the suffrage movement a new wave of purpose and inspiration.

  • King Assassination Riots (1968): The King Assassination Riots were a series of over 100 cases of civil unrest following the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. These riots invoked turmoil as racial tensions rose to a volatile level in the United States. The assassination was a catalyst for the civil unrest, and many people took to the streets to express their anger and grief using marches and protests. Not all of these demonstrations remained peaceful. Some of the most notable riots occurred in Baltimore, Chicago, Louisville, New York City, and Washington D.C. Looting, vandalizing, and property damage were common occurrences in these riots. President Lyndon B. Johnson condemned the assassination of Dr. MLK Jr.. He initiated a series of legislative acts which many believed would improve the conditions for Black people in inner cities in the US. The Fair Housing Act passed by Congress in 1968 was one such measure.

  • Others include the Dorr Rebellion (1841), the Detroit Riots (1967), the Stonewall Riots (1969), the Kent State Riots (1970), the Mount Pleasant Riots (1991), and the LA Riots (1992). This is a very general list, as there are countless more that helped create our country.

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WRITTEN BY:

Amelia Aversano

ADDITIONS WRITTEN BY:

Haarika Karlapati

GUIDE WRITING TEAM

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ABOUT US:

This resource aims to amplify the voices of the Black community, educate people of all ages and races about the Black Lives Matter movement, and guide the country towards a place of equity. 

Disclaimer: This is a student-based group not officially affiliated with Black Lives Matter.

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