Protest Without Violence

This blog post is not meant to minimize Americans’ freedom to protest. Americans have a constitutional right to express their misgivings with federal, state and local government actions.

But, should protesters be protected if they destroy government and personal property? And why would one American feel a need to assault his or her neighbor’s home or business under any circumstances? Does this action have any conceivable benefit to society? Doesn’t violence cause government officials to dig in their heels on issues and become more difficult to reason with?

Martin Luther King, Jr., Mahatma Ghandhi and Nelson Mandela are among the most successful protesters in history. Interestingly, they made great strides and peace on three different continents. Nonviolent, yet stern, protest can get things accomplished. Smashing windows, turning over cars and hurling dangerous items at the authorities are a recipe for disaster. If you want to encourage settlement of a legitimate dispute, don’t do anti-social things that antagonize the people you must negotiate with.

Great lessons can be learned from the actions of labor unions. Over the years, violence was prevalent in union negotiations. Labor and management resorted to brutal and physical tactics that only prolonged corporate disruption. Both sides lost time and money. Today, union negotiations are very tactical and productive; the threat of halting operations has proven to be a highly potent and productive means of negotiation. Seldom are union negotiations violent.

Disputes that we are witnessing today are in large part public relations ploys. Unhappy groups whether they come together because of civil rights, racial injustice, abortion or police brutality can make a difference, but they need the support of many Americans to inspire change.

But, if a group is looking for empathy and support, why do things that aggravate and alienate other Americans who might be sympathetic to the cause. If you have a beef against violent or inappropriate police activities and want support, don’t destroy neighborhood stores, houses and property. It’s just an awful negotiating tactic.

In many situations, the worst elements of our society encourage violence not because they are sympathetic to a cause, but because they are anti-American and anarchistic. Fighting amongst ourselves will not expedite justice and fairness. We should all be wary of troublemakers and provocateurs that want to destroy institutions, not reform them.

There are a lot of things in America that create terrible emotional grief for our citizens. Everybody has a cause or causes that are important to them. It’s fine to seek out other others who agree. It’s fine to organize. It’s fine to disrupt and show strength in numbers. It’s not fine to smash windows and loot neighborhood stores.

All those who think they have a legitimate gripe should read about revolutionaries that have changed things without destroying other people’s lives. Mandela took over his country with virtually no bloodshed. He also gave up many years of his life to convince his adversaries that he was a noble man. Change is possible without shooting or punching other people and destroying property.


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