In light of the recent events that have occurred in America, we have been seeing a number of protests erupt across the country. These are in response to the Presidential election, women's rights, etc. The United States Constitution protects your right to peaceably protest the government. Let us not take this right for granted.
This past week, a protest was staged at U.C Berkeley after Republican speaker Milo Yiannopoulos was invited to the school by a Republican student group to give a speech. According to the New York Times, many students and faculty had petitioned for the university to cancel the event, but the chancellor declined, claiming it was free speech. This further angered the students and faculty who were protesting, so on the day of Milo's scheduled visit, they gathered outside of Berkeley's student union center in hopes that the event would be canceled.
The protest began creatively and peacefully but quickly turned violent. The demonstration allegedly caused over $100,000 worth of damage to Berkeley's campus. Two students were attacked, protesters threw Molotov cocktails to ignite flames and commercial-grade fireworks at police. The windows of the student union center were smashed, and the campus fell victim to vandalism. Not all of the protesters were Berkeley students; some of the protesters were part of a group known as "Black Bloc" that has allegedly been causing problems in the Oakland area for quite some time. (Read about it here.)
Students were pepper sprayed and hurt, Trump supporters and students alike. Mr. Yiannopoulos had to be evacuated from the area, out of concern for public safety. Even after the police dispersed the protesters from Berkeley's campus, a group that remained moved downtown and began smashing the windows of banks.
This chain of events begs the question: is this how we get things done? Some people have claimed that peaceful protesting would not have succeeded in canceling the event. Does this mean the violence was justified?
Can violence ever be justified?
The Constitution protects our right to peacefully protest - not smash windows or vandalize a campus.
How can we ask for the government to protect our right to freedom of speech if we shun those who disagree? Intolerance of speech and rhetoric that is different from your own does nothing to help this country. This is not how you "peacefully protest". Regardless of your personal opinion on the situation or your opinion of Yiannopoulos, this violent demonstration was an attack on the freedom of speech that the public has been trying so very hard to preserve.
Peaceful protests are non-violent and do not infringe on the rights of others. protest that blocks "vehicular or pedestrian traffic" is illegal without a permit, nor do you have the right to block the entrance of a building. You cannot advocate for peace while destroying property or infringing on other people's lives or rights.
In the words of Desmond Tutu, "Don't raise your voice, improve your argument."
This country has a history of peaceful protests, ones that have shaped society today. Through peaceful protesting, women gained the right to vote, made racial segregation unlawful in Alabama and later the rest of the country, and more. Peaceful protest often takes time to gain traction and for a difference to be made. Violence is not the way we bring about a more progressive society. Silencing other people's voices is not how we fight injustice.