Violent v.s. peaceful protest: Is cathartic protest through violence warranted or effective?

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Violent v.s. peaceful protest: Is cathartic protest through violence warranted or effective?

Cartoon by Rachel Buigas-Lopez

Cartoon by Rachel Buigas-Lopez

Cartoon by Rachel Buigas-Lopez

Cartoon by Rachel Buigas-Lopez

Editorial Page

In the past year and a half, many protests in the name of racial justice have occurred throughout cities in America, some peaceful and some violent.


In Chicago, peaceful protests took place after the release of a video in which police officer, Jason Van Dyke unnecessarily shot 17-year-old Laquan McDonald 16 times throughout his body. The backlash from the city has been primarily nonviolent, with reports of protesters walking and even chatting with policemen, despite the fact it was a police officer who murdered McDonald.


In contrast, the riots in Baltimore have exponents that cite the same cause: respect for African-American lives and an end to police brutality – but have chosen a different route.


In the Maryland city, businesses and vehicles have been damaged or set aflame and drugstores looted. All this in the name of “justice.”


How change can genuinely be implemented is vital to today’s climate and we find ourselves seeing two options: violence or peace. The answer is not clear for all.


Why do protesters resort to riots?


The answer to us is simple; violence attracts attention and serves as a way for angry people to purge their rage. When considering the riots in Ferguson, Mo., it was not until protests became violent that it hit national news. Protesters began gathering following the death of Mike Brown, who was shot and killed by Darren Wilson in August 2014.


When riots erupted following a ruling that no trial will be held for the Wilson at fault, the entire nation heard about it. As a result of the overwhelming civil unrest, a trial was eventually held. The trial’s outcome was not the one hoped for, but the protesters got their trial. Rioting, in a sense, was successful.


Even Martin Luther King Jr., a protestor associated with peace, can admit that, “A riot is the language of the unheard.” It is important to remember why protests escalate to violence, and the context of the situation.


On the other hand, there have been many peaceful protests that brought success as well.


Protests such as Mahatma Gandhi’s civil disobedience movement in the 1930s and the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s were all eventually successful in accomplishing their desired goals. What makes these two movements similar? Peaceful protests.


The Civil Rights Movement led a series of peaceful marches, the most famous one being the March on Washington, and boycotts.The Civil Rights Movement did not come to a close until the Civil Rights Act of 1968 was signed, 13 years after the movement began.


As we can now see, we have come a long way since the 1960s with the help of the noble protests of citizens who demanded equality. Additionally, the movement that Gandhi started was impossible without peace, given Gandhi’s support of pacifism. Peaceful protests and boycotts by Indian citizens, 40 years later, gained them freedom.


These two movements provide great evidence in protesting through peace, rather than violence.


In places like Chicago and Baltimore, where police brutality is protested, those who demand change should look back and see how effective they can truly be.


Violence might not always achieve the intended effect, and peaceful protests in history have proven to have their demands met after long periods of time. It is arguable both forms of protests are lacking in areas. Violent protest is destructive, and potentially dangerous to bystanders, and as seen in Ferguson, does not always reap the full desired outcome.


As for peaceful protests, the demands of the protests seem to take far longer to be met. Both violent and nonviolent protests have pros and cons. It is difficult to definitely say one form of protest is better than the other.


For many of us on staff, we implore anyone who desires change within our society to find a way to do so peacefully. However cliche “peace, not violence,” may sound, it is important to understand why such a phrase exists.


Others believe that rioting is justified when racial justice is at stake.



For many, it seems like violence may be the only option, but violence tends to always be a form of retribution. So, we ask that anyone who considers violence to be circumspect, and understand that breaking the law is a serious offense and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Peace is always the better option, but when violence is used, we should understand why.

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