There’s no user agreement when one evokes their First Amendment right, yet, still, there will almost always be cohorts of critics in America who will denounce the protest for being either too offensive, untimely, obtrusive, loud, silent, aggressive or passive.
Whether it was the Occupy movement, which was said to be unsightly and unsanitary when they slept in the streets of various cities years ago to condemn America’s wealth inequality, the armed militia who in January of this year occupied a federal building to protest the government’s treatment of local ranchers, swarms of anti-black racism activists who repeatedly reiterate the value of black lives while blocking traffic, or Mr. Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling during the nation anthem, these actions were seen by a sizable portion of the public as both unnecessary and indignant. Yet, for as many who attacked those actions, there were those who supported them as agreeable and required for the moment.
In a country that has been, and is still, extremely divided by race, politics and class, can there ever be a reasonable standard for peacefully protesting that all citizens can conform to?
For African-Americans, at least, there seems to be a standard that’s imposed upon them: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a Black civil rights leader who today is regarded as a national treasure – many American streets and a federal holiday share his namesake – by the majority of the public, but who during his prime was often castigated by both Blacks and Whites for his visual and dramatic approach to social justice.
While Dr. King is remembered as a relatively docile man who championed non-violent direct actions, he certainly opted for the drama, and often put himself and his allies in harm’s way in order to garner maximum news media attention for the cause. For sure, at the time of his greatest works, even Dr. King’s advocacy was seen as untimely and obtrusive.
And though untimely and obtrusive are often the views many hold of protests, it is exactly those characteristics that make a direct action successful: untimely, because it should be a surprise for those on the receiving end of a protest; and obtrusive, due to the need to emphasis disapproval.
It’s likely the lack of understanding and/or respect for the characteristics of a protest that generates so much angst for them, whether they are silent or loud; aggressive or passive; untimely or scheduled and promoted in advance.
And while individuals have just as much right to oppose a protest as someone has to organize it, the message often being sent from movement dissenters is don’t protest at all but rather count your blessing, and if that’s not enough, find somewhere else to live. But that message, regardless of what race of people it’s directed at, is more anti-American than any protest I could imagine.
America ensures everyone a right to peacefully protest, and that right is absent of a comfort-ability clause or fine print. As that right will continue to be leveraged well into the future, particularly because unmitigated injustice abounds at almost every turn in America, movement dissenters at some point must confront their angst and answer these questions honestly: Are there really right or wrong ways to peacefully protest a legitimate grief? And, if I’m aiming to constrain one’s liberation, do I truly believe in liberty and justice for all?
Thanks for reading. Until next time, I’m Flood the Drummer® & I’m Drumming for JUSTICE!™
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Photo courtesy of the author.