Vargas: Protesting is a valid way to express frustration with status quo

Alani Vargas, Columnist

Political protests and marches have raged across the country since Donald Trump’s election and have received more attention this week as his inauguration approaches. The Women’s March on Washington this Saturday will coincide with demonstrations in Chicago and other major cities. Protests and rallies, though spurned by some, are a natural response to many people’s unrest and dissatisfaction since the election. And our constitution enshrines the right to petition. Though protesting does not solve all social problems, it remains an effective tool in expressing a hope for change.

Protesting has long been belittled. Back in 1964, at the height of the Civil Rights movement, 57 percent of Americans said civil rights protesters were violent and 58 percent said civil rights activists hurt their own cause. Yet, the civil rights movement is now celebrated by mainstream America.

Now, in the face of anti-Trump protests, many conservatives have encouraged protesters to “suck it up.” Fifty years from now, I would wager that those sentiments won’t exist. This dissonance between the opinions of the protests now and the protests 50 years ago highlights the hypocrisy and internalized racism in today’s society.

Despite criticisms, I know Northwestern students who have and will continue to take part in Chicago demonstrations. In addition to the Chicago Women’s March, which has over 18,000 people saying they will go on Facebook, there is also a huge anti-Trump protest happening on Friday in front of the Trump Tower downtown.

The debate over protest as a form of resistance resurfaced recently through the Black Lives Matter movement. In accordance with public fears of looting and violence, the Washington Post reported that 59 percent of Americans thought the 2014 Ferguson demonstrations after Michael Brown’s death had “gone too far.” These protests, however, garnered visibility for Black Lives Matter and received more support from people throughout the nation after the fact. Moreover, critics of Black Lives Matter protests and demonstrations forget that these actions were instrumental to the progress made during the civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s, as well as the gay rights and AIDS activist movements in the 1980s. Not all of these protests were completely nonviolent or approved by all Americans at the time.

Instant success is rare after one protest; change takes time and so does influencing politicians. Protest is also not the only way to make grievances known by far: lobbying representatives or organizing in one’s community are both important forms of activism. Despite its critics, peaceful protesting is an American right enshrined in the First Amendment. Trump’s presidency represents a threat to civil liberties and minority populations in this country, and many have chosen protest as a way of making their voices heard. The protesters who have marched over the past few months and those who will march this weekend are not in violation of anyone’s rights and are merely expressing their own political will. As long as protesters doesn’t violate the rights of others, I say march on.

Alani Vargas is a Medill junior. She can be reached at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected] views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.