St. Lucy's Priory High School

Opinion: Public dissent should only ever be non-violent

Protestors cheer for women and human rights at the Women’s March in Chicago, Illinois. (John Gress / Getty Images)

In the news, recently, there has been unprecedented amounts of protesting against the president and for the president through both violent and non-violent means. However, no matter how just the cause, violent protesting should never be tolerated.

No cause ever justifies the use of physical force against another person or damage to property. Protesting should only be verbal and peaceful.

It is a tragedy when demonstrations turn violent, which was the case in Charlottesville, Va. in August. On Aug. 12, white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan staged a large rally to “take America back” and clashed with counter protesters. Americans have the right to peacefully assemble, but when a side promotes violence or hate towards others, they are being un-American.

Members of both groups traded blows and hurtled bottles of chemical irritants at each other. This led to police breaking up the rally, but clashes continued on side streets.

It was on one of these side streets where a man named Alex Fields drove a car into a crowd of counter protestors killing a woman named Heather Heyer, and injuring 19 others. Fields was arrested and charged with second-degree murder. This heinous act of violence is what happens when people abuse their right to free speech.

This act of violence was the result of ideals held by right-wing extremists, but violent acts have also been recorded at protests involving left-wing extremists. One such event was a “Rally Against Hate” gathering in Berkeley. No party is more innocent or guilty than the other, both sides share blame in violent clashes.

The event involved thousands of protesters rallying against hate, bigotry, and President Trump. The peaceful event quickly turned violent with fights breaking out and pepper spray and smoke bombs being used.

The violence was begun by black clad anti-fascist protesters who chased and beat up Trump supporters who had scheduled and then canceled their “Anti-Marxist Rally.”  Police, and at times counter protestors, stepped in to halt the violence and escort the victims away. Even if a cause is just, such as fighting against hate and racism, the use of violence to stand for those ideals, is abhorrent.

These clashes occurred despite widespread calls from activists and elected officials for peaceful civil disobedience. Thirteen people were arrested for charges ranging from assault with a deadly weapon to obstructing a police officer. When one perpetuates violent acts their constitutional rights will not protect them, they face justified punishment.

Unfortunately, truly peaceful acts are few and far between. The last truly peaceful publicized rally was the Women’s March in Washington D.C. in January. This march had over 500,000 women in attendance to protest President Trump’s treatment of women.

This march yielded no arrests, and approximately three million women participated nationally. This event proves that violence is not required to make a point and take a stand for what you believe in.

–Lily Ramirez