Protest: The Force That Built Our Nation

The 2016 presidential election has left the United States more divided than ever. While many are excited about the future, countless others are scared and angry. Protests have broken out coast to coast led by people who are worried about the potential damage Trump could do to this country. Anyone who has been on Facebook in the last week has almost certainly seen videos of these protests, as well as posts of people condemning them, and writing them off as sore losers. What must be understood is that these protestors are exercising a right protected by the first amendment. Protesting has played a huge role in bringing about change in America over the years.

The first protest that played a significant role in U.S. history happened before we were independent from British Rule. On December 16, 1773, colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians stormed three British ships in the Boston Harbor and dumped 342 chests of tea into the water to protest new taxes placed upon the settlers, specifically the tea tax of 1773. The British reacted by passing the “intolerable acts” which prompted more protest from colonists, and eventually led to the Revolutionary war.

Another very significant protest in America’s history was the march on Washington in 1963. This rally brought over 200,000 protestors to the nation’s doorstep in the fight for racial equality. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his famous “I have a dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, on this day. This demonstration is credited with pressuring John F. Kennedy to begin drafting civil rights legislation.

Just a few years later, the Stonewall riots broke out in New York. Members of the LGBT community faced a very anti-gay legal system at this time. On the morning of June 28, 1969, New York police raided the Stonewall Inn in Manhattan. The raid turned into a multiple day riot between the gay residents of Greenwich Village, and the police. Within 6 months of the riots, two activist organizations and three newspapers had been established to help fight for gay rights. New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco held their first gay pride parades on the one year anniversary of the raid.

Protest isn’t only an American thing. There are examples all around the world of protest leading to progress. Germany may still be divided if it weren’t for the protestors of the Berlin Wall. China may not have made advances toward democracy if it weren’t for the Tiananmen square protestors who sparked harsh criticism against China’s government from the international community. The Catholic church may still be exploiting it’s members if it weren’t for Martin Luther nailing his 95 theses to the door of a German church.

It’s hard to find someone today who feels that America shouldn’t have fought the Revolutionary war, or given rights to African-American citizens. Public opinion is rarely on the protestor’s side when they are protesting. Many colonists were content to stay under British rule, civil rights was a very controversial issue in the 60s and 70s, and only 12 years ago, 60% of U.S. citizens opposed gay marriage. When people protest they are doing so because they feel scared or taken advantage of. Instead of telling them to get over it and move on, try to step into their shoes and see the world from a different perspective. Race, gender, sexual orientation, and zip code affect the way you see the world. What works for one person doesn't always work for someone else. Let’s all practice a little compassion when we see  men and women coming together to fight for what they believe in, whether it’s by casting a ballot or marching with a sign.

Editor's Note: All articles for Her Campus at the University of Utah are the opinions and beliefs of the writers and do not reflect Her Campus at the University of Utah, the University of Utah or Her Campus as an international magazine.