Protesting: simpler then, complex now

It all started with butter.

In 1776, Harvard students came together in protest of the school’s allegedly awful butter. This student protest became known as the Butter Rebellion, the first American student protest.

Two hundred forty-two years later, student protests have evolved from one school simply detesting dairy products.

Nationwide walkouts and marches are taking place as a result of the mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida, where 17 people were killed and dozens more injured. March For Our Lives, a student-led protest calling for more gun control, took place on March 24 across the nation.

As a result, our nation is once again divided. There are those who believe that the students are protesting for the wrong reasons and that gun control is not going to change the safety of our students.

No matter what side a person is on or what he or she believes, the power of protesting and practicing freedom of speech has proven to be impactful and important throughout not only American history but internationally.

A non-violent resistance group called White Rose was made up of four students and one profesor from the University of Munich during Nazi rule in Germany. In 1942, they created a leaflet (pamphlet) campaign against the Nazi regime and informed Germans of Nazi violence and urged them to fight.

“Eventually, all five White Rose leaders were tried and executed,” Staff wrote. “But they died knowing their courageous actions had put at least a dent in the Nazi propaganda machine.”

In protest of the Chinese oppressive communist government, on April 18, 1989, students marched in Tiananmen Square. A couple weeks later, over 1,000 students went on a hunger strike demanding the Chinese government start communicating with them.

On June 4, 1989, Chinese law enforcement shot and beat protesters. Tanks were called in to run over any remaining protesters. With no official death toll, Western reporters estimated there were thousands of casualties and nearly 10,000 arrests.

Yet, this event in history led to the rise of pro-democracy organizations formed by Chinese student activists and sanctions imposed by the U.S.

During the 1970s the U.S. was divided over the Vietnam War, and students from Kent State University in Ohio protested the war by attacking police officers with bottles and rocks. In return, the Ohio National Guard was called in and used tear gas to clear the hostility. Consequently, the National Guard unleashed fire and killed four students and wounded nine others.

The fear of this violence spreading caused the closing of many colleges across the nation.

Results from a UCLA survey that began in 1967 indicate that the percentage of students who say their chances in participating in protests is rising. In 2014 it was 5.6 percent, and in 2016 it was 8.5 percent, nationwide.

At Emory University in Atlanta, there was a protest because “TRUMP 2016” was written in chalk all over campus. According to some of the students, they said they believed this label was made to make them feel unsafe.

“And it is a rational response to protests like those at Emory to think that college campuses are turning more hostile to free expression rather than less,” Dickey wrote.  

From the various examples above, protests are in fact impactful, but also have the ability to turn violent. Blood has been shed and lives have been lost on the road to change, and it is crucial that we as a nation continue to practice peaceful protests.

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