Most protesters use non-violent demonstrations as a way to get their voices heard on behalf of a variety of causes. But when minorities turn to violent protests to get their message across, the consequences can harm their cause instead of helping it.

Clashes at the G20

Protests at this year’s G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany have been marred by violent protest from small groups of anti-capitalist black bloc protestors. They have clashed with German Police and have incited rioting, looting, and injuries. The violence at the G20 has dominated media coverage and effectively neutralized any impact non-violent protest might have had.

The G20 is an ideal platform for non-protestors to receive attention from the media and world leaders in attendance. But violent protest has forced leaders to address it and take away from their time to consider real issues of concern such as climate change.

Ineffective Violence

Black bloc protesters also caused chaos and confusion during a clash between anti-Trump and pro-Trump individuals in Berkeley back in April. People were injured and police made arrests for assault. Some people present at the pro-Trump demonstration said that the black bloc individuals were not part of either cause and instead of looking for a fight.

This clash came just weeks after protests over Breitbart editor Milo Yiannopoulos’ speaking event also turned violent. Many people felt that violence in that circumstance was the only way to get the event canceled.Violent protest in general, however, has been proven to harm causes and not actually help them.

Unintended consequences

Those who participate in violent protests claim that it works. But why take such pride in the consequences? A protest at Middlebury College in March sent a faculty member moderating an event with conservative scholar Charles Murray to the hospital after being assaulted. The outcome served as an illustration of when two sides cannot even have a civil debate with each other.

Violent protests can also have unintended — and often counterproductive — consequences. Many such protests have been sparked over President Trump of the United States. But instead of losing support as the protests intended, he instead gained support by speaking out against them. The conservative values he represents also gained traction because right-wing media outlets were able to denounce the violence. Instead of weakening the opposing cause, violent protesters only strengthened it.

And of course, violent protests often end with at least some of the protesters being arrested and charged with assault. Assault is often classified as a misdemeanor or even a felony (depending on the state), something that stays on the participants’ records for life.

Violent protest does not help anyone. It causes injuries to people and property alike, and any short-term gains are ultimately eroded by the backlash. Peaceful protest is safer and works more effectively over the long-term.