Although protesting is a right guaranteed to all citizens of the United States, it is important to ask ourselves, “Is the meaning of the movement being lost?”
Recently, I have seen plenty of political action online, and in-person, where people are organizing, preparing and planning ways to change the world. All of this action was sparked by the death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers, but the reach of this movement has become much greater. There are countless Facebook groups being made daily, as well as protests outside the police station in my hometown. But lately, I have noticed a slight tonal shift in some of these protests. The focus has changed.
On May 29, I went to the very first protest in my town to cover it for The Alestle, and it was a small contingency of about 20 people outside the police department, with plenty of signs with messages like “Black Lives Matter” and “Record the Police.” Part of the way through, a friend of mine (who was too busy to attend the protest) came by and dropped off bottles of water for the protesters, which seemed to boost morale quite a bit.
Fast forward a few weeks, and there are still protests all over the county. And, just a week ago, my hometown had a protest that was not in front of the police department. Instead of choosing a statue in town, or city hall, or a courthouse, the protesters chose the front of a Family Dollar. The Family Dollar did not have a history of racial prejudices, or an owner that went off on Facebook. It was just a regular Family Dollar. Additionally, the protesters brought a bubble machine for children, a large speaker to play music and plenty of food and snacks.
Bringing food to a protest is not inherently bad. If a protest is particularly long, and the organizers intend to keep that longevity, then prepare food. But, this protest was incredibly short. Additionally, we are living in a world where we have been told by the government to shelter in place to prevent a pandemic from worsening. If people see protests as an opportunity to make some food, play some music and hang out, then they will go to a protest for fun.
I may sound like an angry old man, and I do feel bad for criticizing the way others express their feelings, but I have to admit that this all seems backwards to me. I have two major complaints, and the first is that a pandemic is still happening. People are still dying due to COVID-19, and there are still shelter-in-place orders in action.
My second complaint, which is much more important, is that I’m concerned about the future of this movement taking place all over the world. If this political movement becomes a casual pastime, or a fun hangout, or anything other than people standing in solidarity for themselves and others, then it will no longer be taken seriously by the government.
If you are truly protesting, then by all means, brave the virus. If you truly stand with the Black community not only in these trying times, but always, protest. In my opinion, everyone should be out protesting because we as a country are becoming increasingly aware of the injustices that take place everyday. But, protest with passion. Don’t just stand there, drinking a soda, casually talking to your friends about gossip. Hold a sign, and talk about ways to reform police and the entire country for the better.