Some of the most divisive events in American politics over the past few years have been protests. Protests are happening in the United States all the time—in radically different ways, for radically different reasons—yet the conservative response to them is always the same.
Colin Kaepernick, 49ers quarterback, began kneeling in 2016 during the national anthem to protest the oppression of people of color. This event outraged millions of Republicans, who saw it as disrespectful to the flag and the military.
Nearly half a million-people participated in the Women’s March on Washington on Jan. 21, protesting the election of President Donald Trump and advocating for women’s rights. This event elicited a direct response from the president, and also received widespread criticism from Republicans in general.
Conservatives support the right to protest, yet disapprove of the way it is conducted. This is unacceptable and this issue must be brought forward; protesting is an important part of evoking change in our nation.
Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel for the national anthem has proven remarkably controversial. To date, Kaepernick has suffered a slew of personal attacks intended to discredit his message, including that he is anti-cop and anti-veteran. The idea behind the spiteful hatred that fuels criticism of Kaepernick is that by destroying the man, they can destroy the ideas that drive him.
Unfortunately for conservatives, vilifying Kaepernick for what is a relatively lazy form of protesting has done more damage to the Republican establishment than it has done to Kaepernick. The media have focused in on the conservative overreaction, and given Kaepernick an even bigger platform to spread his message, according to The New York Times.
The Women’s March on Washington was one of the largest protests in modern history. The election of Trump proved to be an incredibly effective mobilizing force for people, particularly minorities threatened by his rhetoric. The powerful message of half a million people marching, however, was subverted by both Trump and his associates. The attendants were labeled as losers, according to The Huffington Post.
The event was criticized for being anti-men, according to The Washington Post. Trump himself took to witter to say that the protesters should have voted instead of organizing the march. It is difficult to minimize the voice of 500,000 people, but conservatives have certainly tried their best to do just that. This is unacceptable, especially in a nation that was founded upon free speech, and as previously discussed, is utterly ineffective.
Kaepernick’s protest and the Women’s March are appropriate examples to demonstrate the inadmissible Republican intolerance as they represent the full spectrum of acceptable forms of protest. Kaepernick is a wealthy individual with a platform to spread his message, while the Women’s March was a collection of ordinary people speaking about their shared concerns. Both were non-violent and have done a remarkable job creating conversation in this country and are undeserving of criticism.
Protests will always be criticized by those who wish to preserve the status quo. For Republicans, it is clear they will never support a protest they disagree with and even worse, will continue to refuse to offer those individuals the respect they deserve for participating in these forms of activism.