The Problems Surrounding Peaceful Protests

Lev Katz

                              via Unsplash

In this day and age, we witness a lot of tragedies in our everyday lives. In response to this, we protest the very thing that rules over us: the government and the authorities. We go out to Union Square and The Lincoln Memorial with our signs and our passion, chanting for what we believe and hoping that someone will hear our voice. The tragedies that have occurred this year, such as the brutal killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of police officers, have reawakened the fight for racial equality in this country. With this fight, we’ve seen protests all over the country in New York, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, and many other cities. While we chant for what is right, our leaders label us as violent and provocative. We try our hardest not to listen to them and to push through, but is it all worth it? Protests are the peaceful version of uprisings. By protesting we are saying we don’t agree with what you are doing and demanding change. We try to protest peacefully, but we often don’t really get what we are asking for. And when we raise our voice louder and call for attention, we are labeled as rioters, criminals, and looters. 


That is the point of view from someone who is an avid protester and has the means to do so. These are the people who are able to miss work and/or school to go out and fight for other causes. These are the people that don’t have to worry about what they’re going to eat for dinner and if there will be food, but instead can worry about larger problems than themselves. In addition to this, some people are unable to protest due to the Covid-19 pandemic. While we might feel comfortable with going to protests, others may feel that the risk of infection is too high. We label these people who protest as selfless and say they’re standing up for what is right. But what about the people who can’t afford to miss work? What about the people who need to stay in class to get good grades? 


Often during times of protest, we ignore those who are not as fortunate as we are. People who cannot just leave work or school to go out and protest for something that does not directly affect them at the moment. Now, this is not out of selfishness, but rather out of survival. These people need to worry about their future careers and if they’re going to be able to eat and pay their bills this month. They need to worry about problems that concern them before they can worry about problems that concern others. These people tend to be in low-income situations. And unfortunately, because of institutionalized racism in this country, the majority of these people are people of color- people that are greatly affected by racist police officers and biased doctors. The entire Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality directly affects them. So you might ask yourselves, why don’t they go out and protest if it is such a close matter to them? We have to understand that there are needs that people must meet before they can help others. 


Put yourself in the shoes of a single mother. You teach your kids what is right in the world and how to treat others. You may support what is happening with the protests and you may agree with the protesters' opinions, but for right now, you can’t march with them. You have to make sure that your children have full bellies at the end of the day before you can look out for others and demand justice for police brutality. You have to make sure that you’re going to have a place to live by the end of the month before looking out for others. In this country, protests are an activity for the privileged. Because employers do not treat protests as valid absences, many people cannot get paid time off to go protest. Therefore, the people who most want to be protesting are unable to. This could also affect how protests are viewed. If a protest is mostly full of white protesters, but it is about housing discrimination towards people of Caribbean descent, some may question its credibility. 

In order to even start to make a change in this world, we must think about those who are unable to offer their services. Before protesting against gun violence, we should acknowledge the fact that we are able to do so and be thankful that we live in a country where we do not need to worry as much about getting punished for protesting. We should help those who are less fortunate by donating money to cover the pay that was docked from them when they went out to fight for justice. We should think of those people who are just like us in this world who cannot simply pick up and go to a protest. We should think before asking others to leave work or school to protest with us. We should make sure that doing such a thing would not negatively affect their lives. Because in this country we should not have to risk losing our jobs or our homes just because we wish to fight against bigotry and injustice.