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Protests 101

author: elisabeth sahlmueller | contributor

Credit: David Kent via Flickr

Two weeks ago, the American presidential election took place, and not only did it have a surprising outcome, but it has also significantly increased people’s fears. The fact that such an egotistical, racist, and arrogant individual has been elected as the next president of the United Sates is something that is difficult to grasp, especially since those are all qualities which are undesirable in a leader.

Because of Donald Trump’s win, thousands of activists have taken part in protests in various cities throughout the United Sates and Canada, including Philadelphia, San Francisco and Vancouver, with the most extreme situations occurring in Portland, Oakland, Baltimore and Los Angeles. These protests are not simply a minor reaction to having a disliked opponent win, it is a much more serious response based on the disgust over the behaviour, attitude and comments demonstrated by the new president-elect, as well as a worry that his policies could damage Americans’ human and civil rights. I believe people should have the right to voice their opinion, but when this develops into a violent or dangerous situation that threatens people’s safety and property, things have gone too far. Violence does gain attention, but it is not the most effective way to bring about the best results.

Some of these protests have remained on the peaceful side, but others have grown into more intense situations that had to be regulated by police. For example, in Portland on the Thursday night following the election, a protest in the city quickly turned into an extremely dangerous situation. Demonstrators smashed windows, set small fires, blocked off traffic, vandalized buildings, and damaged cars. By early Friday morning, twenty-nine people had been arrested. Similar actions have occurred in other places such as in Baltimore and L.A., where 185 people were arrested.

Other protests in places like Philadelphia and Vancouver have included calmer displays of people marching in the streets, chanting slogans concerning the things they are upset about.  “No hate, no fear, immigrants are welcome here,” “Prejudice Kills,” and “build kindness, not walls” are just a few examples. People of all ages have taken part in these protests, including a group of university students from Tennessee. These students marched throughout their campus and gained attention by singing civil rights songs.

I can definitely see a point in people’s protests. The comments and behaviour that have been exhibited by Trump are far from the ones that can be considered acceptable from a leader of a country. There is also a high level of fear surrounding the policies that were promised if he attained the presidency. He has a negative attitude toward immigrants, particularly Mexicans, and has shown that he is not very accepting of people of various ethnicities. He also doesn’t seem to see any problems regarding his derogatory comments and actions toward women. With all of this in mind, it is not surprising that people are upset about his win and hope to see him removed from the presidency.

Janet Chia, a Chinese immigrant from Philadelphia, has summed this feeling up well.

“We need to fight. If we don’t do anything, it’s just going to continue this way.”

I agree. If problems exist and are not dealt with, they will only become worse; however, I think these actions that involve extreme forms of violence are not the best way to handle or solve the situation. While they do gain people’s attention, they only create a more intense situation than necessary, because police have to be called in to calm down the crowds. In some cases, they have used pepper spray on people out of desperation. Additionally, the damage from these protests only harms ordinary individuals and doesn’t affect whom people are actually angry with.

Other actions, such as writing an article or rant, voting for policies that you believe are right, and being aware of what is going on, are all better ways to bring about positive change without having to resort to the tactic of violence. An individual’s voice is a powerful source that should not be silenced. Standing up for what you believe in is important, but if this will lead to violent action, it needs to be reconsidered. I, too, am upset with Donald Trump’s win, and I can only hope that he will not last the usual four-year term; however, these protests have to stop because they put people’s safety at risk and with Trump in power, we have enough of a dangerous situation that there is no need to make it worse.

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