Opinions & Editorials

Does violence have a place in social movements

They tell us to be more peaceful. They tell us we’re protesting wrong. They tell us through their actions that our lives are worth less than the property they own. They tear gas us, shoot us with rubber bullets, they beat us, they run us over in their cars, they kill us. They demonize us through the media. And we just have to stand there and take it for having the audacity to ask for true equality for people of different races.

But should we do more than just take it? Minorities have a right to be angry about centuries of systemic oppression. Should marginalized groups have to deal with suffering without reciprocating it towards their oppressors?

Violent protesting draws more attention than non-violent protesting for sure, but it doesn’t draw much positive attention. Violence also paints the rest of a movement in a certain way to the general public. 

Think about it; when the Black Lives Matter protests became more prominent earlier this year, a lot of people outright dismissed the movement and described it as “looting and rioting,” even though it’s a legitimate cause. A lot of people chose to focus on the Target looting  in Minneapolis rather than the police brutality. 

The people who side with the police because the police haven’t done anything to them personally misrepresent the other side because “they’re probably doing something wrong.” 

Many people believe that any cause which disrupts the status quo is inherently a problem. We still need to appeal to the White suburban middle class because they’re the ones voting the most for candidates based on the problems they find important. 

Violent protests do, however, send a strong message to the people in charge: people are tired of what’s happening, and there needs to be drastic systemic change. If they choose to acknowledge it, that’s another question. But they don’t have to acknowledge it if they can just write it off as a violent group.

But violent protest isn’t the only way of protest to draw attention. Peaceful gathering is still a good way to bring attention to important issues. 

Just having a lot of people in one place can make people and politicians pay attention to what they have to say. Of course, some people can’t tell the difference between a violent and nonviolent protest and will treat them the same, which is problematic because the people peacefully protesting aren’t looking for a fight. 

some people will even pretend to be a part of the movement, but instead incite violence to give the police and military an excuse to attack protestors. But widespread peaceful protests can show that it’s a problem not limited to only one community.

Admittedly, I wouldn’t fully understand. Even though I’m not the most privileged individual in the world, I still have a significant amount of privilege compared to those with different complexions than my own. 

While I’ve faced discrimination against my sexuality, I haven’t experienced discrimination, microaggressions and insults based on the color of my skin. So, I can’t exactly shame someone who’s angry after experiencing prejudice for their entire life. 

But violent aggressions can lead to an escalation from authorities who won’t distinguish between peaceful and destructive protestors. Sure, they could still escalate without aggression on the part of the protestors, but violence gives them a full excuse to.

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