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Keep protests peaceful; don’t weaponize First Amendment

The Channels Opinion Pages | STAFF COLUMN

Madeline K. Nathaus, Channels Staff

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The First Amendment was included in the Constitution by the founding fathers to guarantee citizens of the United States freedom of the press, religion, assembly and petition. It is this amendment that separates America from more than 40 percent of the world’s population.

Along with this right to freedom of speech comes the right to peacefully protest, march, and to publicly state one’s beliefs in hopes of bringing attention to an issue or cause.

Protests and marches have been a vital part of forming modern day America and upholding democracy. Without citizens rising up against the government African Americans would not have civil rights, women would not be able to vote, and gay couples would not be able to get married.

Though most protests and marches remain relatively peaceful, there are times when they take a violent turn and end up disproving the point they are trying to make. For example, in the days following Trump’s election, protests broke out among major cities and college campuses across the country. Unfortunately, protests in Los Angeles, Denver and especially Portland became violent in some form.

It is because of the First Amendment and the right’s it provides that the Ku Klux Klan can legally march through the streets spreading a message of hate towards non-white citizens. It is why the Westboro Baptist Church can stand on corners chanting “God hates fags” all in the name of freedom of speech.

However, contrary to these organizations’ messages of discrimination and unacceptance, the Black Lives Matter movement spreads a message of lawful fairness towards African Americans.

The Women’s March, which took place a couple weeks ago, brought attention to the constant sexism that women still face in the 21st century.

There is a reason why Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. advocated for peaceful protests. Imagine a mother yelling at her daughter for neglecting to wash the dishes, the daughter is less inclined to listen to her mother’s reasoning if she is being aggressive.

Violent protesters ruin the movement for peaceful and lawful protesters. Peaceful and disruptive protests are the most effective forms of defiance. Vandalism, destruction of property, physically attacking other civilians, setting fires and other violent acts are illegal and indecent.

As long as protesters don’t break any laws, police officers are more than happy to defend the rights of citizens. They are not the bad guys. After all, it is their job to prevent unlawful activities.

“I respect everyone’s constitutional rights, as long as [the protests] are peaceful. That’s all that we can ask for,” said Paul Espinosa, an officer with the Los Angeles Police Department.

Love sends a stronger message than hate. People will be more open to listening to a message that contradicts their own ideology if their personal beliefs are tolerated and their rights and properties are respected.

Protests and marches are the most effective form of displaying civilians’ disagreement with certain government choices, but they must be used as a tool, not a weapon. Do not abuse your rights.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.
Keep protests peaceful; don’t weaponize First Amendment