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Peaceful protest is not always powerful

June 15, 2017

In this heated age of political turmoil and widespread protest, the argument of peaceful versus violent activism has reemerged. Many believe that violence during times of struggle is counterproductive and dividing, citing successful peace protesters like MLK and Gandhi, but when delving deeper into the history of civil change a more complex look at the purpose and importance of violent fight for change emerges.

Violence, whether destruction of property or physical attack, has always been an important tool in the creation and acceleration of change. While in many instances, societies develop and grow with simple peaceful protesting and advocacy for change, that is not always the case. When a governing power is not truly looking out for the benefit of its people and instead only the individuals in government or an oppressive dominating group, simple shows of dissatisfaction are not enough. This is evident in every major revolution and many civil rights battles throughout history.

            One powerful modern example was the months long protest of the North Dakota Access Pipeline. This protest began April of 2016 and lasted till February 2017 when hundreds of protesters were removed from their camp. The pipeline is still going through exactly as planned, with no positive compromise given to the Sioux Native Tribe who began the protests, and whose source of clean water is being highly threatened. Peaceful protest did not work here.

            A historically celebrated example of violent protest was the Boston Tea party. A group of colonizers tired of the hefty taxation laid on them by Britain took to the ports, raiding ships of tea imports, and dumping them into the water. This destruction of property was a powerful show of dissent that we still revere today.

            In another historical instance of violence reshaping a country for the better, the French Revolution takes spotlight. After years of poor leadership resulting in mass death of the general public, and failed attempts at revising the governing body, the French people rose up in revolt. The violent revolution ended in the deaths of thousands, and a country turned on its head. While the violence perpetrated here was vicious, it leads to the freedom of its people and a constitution built to protect them.

            Dismissing violent protest as simply uncivilized and pointless aggression ignores that it often comes from the most oppressed and hopeless groups who have no other voice in society. Recognizing its legitimacy as a form of action, and an attempt toward bettering our world is the best way to reduce the need for it to occur.

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