How to protest lawfully?
Updated: May 4, 2022
The media has the power to manipulate the purpose and meaning behind activism; How may we prevent this, by using the laws to our benefit? Source.
Introduction: prejudicial publicity
Humanity has faced innumerable protests throughout its age, but the inevitable concern that arises with activism is the increasing plague of police brutality and contagious anarchist sentiments—two extremes that constantly politicise protests, and manipulate the ideals of activism.
This is often the case in today’s world, where there are increasingly, and devastatingly, prevalent showdowns between the government and the people in call for proper re-amendments of human rights. It is a sad reality that many righteous dissents seldom successfully establish their concerns, much less receive the justice deserved. This may be due to various factors involved; Perhaps violence, police brutality, or autocratic governments, but which all point to one crucial cause: Politics. With conflicting political ideologies behind the lens of cameras, perceptions are manipulated by the media, of both the voices of the people and the police (most of whom happen to be commoners, like the rest of us, simply obliging under command). Once this meddling of political interests corrupts the news of activist movements, there is an eruption of haste to immediately harm protestors, lest label them as anti-nationals. The spiral deepens into a never-ending pit of hatred, and the message that we desired to get across, eventually dies from the headlines.
The media has the power to manipulate reality in the eyes of those who weren't onlookers. This comic may seem tangential to what we are discussing, but it's perception stands true to reality. Source.
Here’s the main reason why we protest: To deliver our call for immediate justice, and highlight an issue of concern. Precisely what results, however, are debates over the internet. These heated discussions, clamouring over the common agenda of the public versus authority, frequently forget a critical fact about the very legal system that it criticizes; That the law is crafted to protect the people, not oppress—and therefore netizens should work towards using the system as a pedestal to claim the justice deserved.
Thus, it is important for us to realise that in the case of justice, which law is obligated to serve; It is not about how ethically moral intentions behind the protests are; but on the length of how strategically legal they should be carried out, to maximize our chances at change—How do we protest lawfully?
Disclaimer: It is an excruciating reality that the ideas expressed in this article may be considered only in light of liberal democracies around the world. In countries where authoritarian measures prevail, the efforts are futile.
Have our protests yielded favourable results?
The question of how one can protest begins with the knowledge that regardless of what occurs, it is extremely crucial to do so peacefully, perhaps even to distance ourselves from the armed forces, to minimise damage and painful repercussions. This is not to blame actions stemming from emotional defiance, for emotions over the issue of concern are always justified; for instance, in the case of BLM, as it serves to support the Black community, which has lost countless innocent lives to brutal oppression. The BLM was a revolutionary protest that brought attention to systematic prejudice and discrimination against Black people, but the harsh reality is that the message of the movement died down into silence with time, and it is concerning to wonder if we have significantly eradicated this marginalisation. The question is; Did it bring the change we wished to see? Was there concrete actions on the part of the American government to guarantee that our Black friends will not face systematic discrimination?
The BLM movement is a pivotal stage in human history, where Americans marched against systematic racism and corruption against Black people. Source.
When there’s pain, there will be no gain
Innumerable protests around the globe are diffused mercilessly; One should realise that the forces may react in a much less aggressive manner, for there are alternative measures to contain a protest. There should be no excuse to provide when a peaceful protest is suppressed brutally. This should include the re-amendment of martial laws, and state laws in place that invariably defend the use of riot gears and ammunition before last resort. Certainly, changes in constitution are farther from quick implementation, thus, it should require on part of the forces to resort to soft de-escalation measures.
Kettling, which contains crowds, tenses the situation and sparks volatile reactions, in emotionally distressing situations as a protest. Moreover, it propagates the wrong idea that the protests are aggressive, when the situation is composed and peaceful in reality. Soft de-escalation measures should be carried out, to protect the lives involved on both sides. Anne Nassauer, a professor of sociology at Freie Universität examined how the Berlin Police Department handles protests and soccer matches; A key strategy was transparent communication, which Naasauer shared would help to improve trust and diffuse uprisings of tension. The Berlin police employs people to make announcements (using different speakers) in various languages and accents to inform the public on what the police are implementing, and other commands. When distinct communication occurs, protests are conducted without pain and pressure.
Clear communication fixes grudges
Not just in your interpersonal relationships, but between you and your government.
There is a common reaction that follows after every major movement; That is anarchist sentiments. More than we realise, the hatred that is inbred in such volatile reactions are equally capable of endangering the safety of protests. When it progresses past the stage of internet extremism, to an action that defines a violent protest, it is precisely where it pivots from a harmless ideology to unnecessary extremism. Harbouring such overbearing sentiments will end all in hurt. Legally, the emotions are justified, but the actions resulting, are not.
Under democracies, each one of us have the ability to reshape our future, but how shall we go about doing it, without being overshadowed by potential limiting factors, such as the media, systematic corruption, and conservatist ideologies? Source.
Consider the 1975 Icelandic women’s strike as an exemplary model, when ninety percent of the female population in Iceland went on a strike protesting against unequal pay and workplace discrimination; As a sign of protest, the women did not go to their paid jobs, refrained from doing any housework or child-caring for the entire day. Fruitfully, the Icelandic Parliament passed a law guaranteeing equal pay the following year. This is a story that satisfies us all.
In short, despite the urgency of any protest, we need to fight with patience, to prevent the invariable descent into power demonstration.
It pains me to inform you of the inevitable truth that not all of us are privileged to be born in countries where freedom of speech and expression exist. On the 7th of January this year, Kazakhstan’s president gave a shoot-to-kill order against protestors, marching against rapidly rising fuel prices and corruption. Unannounced martial law exists in many semi-authoritarian nation states, in means of suppressing protests.
To reiterate, the main purpose of protests is to articulate and fight for public concerns, but acting in haste may cause the pursuit to end in vain. Rather, it is imperative to utilise the rights to protest in a witty manner, such as understanding the fundamentals of peaceful protests, and in consideration of minimising damage and injury.
Protest is not something that we should simply fancy, but it is an activity that we should partake cautiously. If, to protest is to fight for social welfare, it’s first step is to protest mindfully.
Patience is a virtue, but also an invaluable weapon.
I end this piece with a quote known to all:
“An eye for an eye—will only make the whole world blind” - Mahatma Gandhi.