Why I Protest

      Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” In light of recent events that have taken place in our nation, I believe this concept is especially evident. Over the last month or so, I have had the opportunity to participate in several protests and advocacy projects in the Philadelphia area. One event in particular that stands out in my mind is the Women’s March on Philadelphia.  This worldwide movement was originally sparked by some of the comments that President Trump made throughout his campaign about women and reproductive rights. There was also another significant protest that occurred more recently. When the President released an executive order calling for the ban of refugees from seven majority-Muslim countries, I went down to protest at the Philadelphia Airport where several families from the Middle East were being detained. Though each event had a particular focus (women’s rights or refugee rights), they have sparked all sorts of other protests for various civil liberties such as LGBTQ+ rights, Native-American rights and more. I have also protested against police brutality and stop and frisk laws with the Black Lives Matter movement. Through these various events, I have realized that our current political situation impacts way more groups than I had thought.

      These protests are not temper tantrums against our new President, but rather are resistance against flippant rhetoric and the damage it can do to vulnerable populations. In addition, I see a protest as a fight against apathy and ignorance, a declaration of what really defines America and a call for more education and accountability among citizens and lawmakers. These events have encouraged people of all ages and backgrounds to stand for what they believe in. As members of a democracy, we have the right (and responsibility) to organize, advocate and make our voices heard in the face of political turmoil and injustice. During these protests, I usually went with a few friends who were equally outraged and wanted to represent the causes they did not want to see forgotten or undermined. I am passionate especially about women’s rights and the rights of people of color, but I also have friends who work exclusively with immigrants and refugees and are concerned about how these populations will be affected. Alongside thousands of people, we have marched with signs down the Ben Franklin Parkway or stood in the airport for hours chanting things like, “No justice, no peace,” “This is what democracy looks like,” “No hate, no fear, refugees are welcome here,” and “Love, not hate, makes America great.” During the protests, there were usually rallies where multiple people gave speeches about the beauty and importance of diversity and equality, the impact of oppression and how we all need to stand against injustice and complacency. The messages were intended for anyone on the streets who happened to listen, but also for people in power who may be responsible for putting vulnerable people at risk. Many speakers made comments specifically directed toward Trump and his supporters, assuring them that love will always win in the end. These events were designed to make people feel like they have power and support.

      My hope is that the protests happening around the country have reminded people of the power they have as citizens to make their voices and opinions heard. Many people are not happy with the new administration, but we each have a responsibility to continue working to build the country that we want to have. I hope, also, that events such as these invoke certain kinds of hesitancy in policymakers who feel that their oppression will be received without resistance. A long-term goal over the next few years of Trump’s presidency is to actually dismantle laws such as stop and frisk, anti-immigration laws, anti-LGBTQ+ laws and so on. I hope also that we are able to encourage the creation of laws that protect these populations and promote the advancement of all people.

      One of the most encouraging things I have learned from being a part of these protests is that hate and bigotry are outnumbered. Though the people who show up are diverse and have many different stories, histories and passions, we all show up to promote love and tolerance. As a citizen of this great nation and as a God-fearing Christian, I cannot stay silent in the face of injustice with a clear conscience. I have learned that sometimes standing up against your country’s leadership is the most patriotic and holy thing that you can do. In “Notes of a Native Son,” James Baldwin writes, “ I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually.” I believe that we have potential to live up to our ideals and move in a better direction.

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