Protests must maintain decorum to be effective
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2012
Updated: Sunday, May 20, 2012 19:05
One of the main tactics used by Martin Luther King, Jr. as part of the African-American Civil Rights movement was non-violent civil disobedience.
Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about his protests for equal rights and said, “The unjust law is what makes civil disobedience a moral act and not merely an act of lawbreaking.”
King went as far as to say that part of our American social contract is to disobey when you feel the law is unjust.
Civil disobedience, and, by extension, protests, are an integral part of democracy, according to King.
Protests can be very effective if planned and handled correctly.
However, violence, among other aspects, can be detrimental to a protest and a cause. For on-campus protests made by students, it is even more important for the violence to remain at bay.
Campus protests are an integral part to the social justice agenda of many colleges and as students under the domain of the university, it is imperative that demonstrations be peaceful.
CampusReform.org, a website dedicated to promoting campus protests, outlines many reasons why campus protests are critical to any cause.
According to the website, protests force people, including those who would not have otherwise known about the subject of the demonstration, to listen to your cause.
Another positive effect of a campus protest is the added coverage by the various university media outlets.
However, campus protests must be contained in order to be effective. The Occupy University of California, Davis protest this past November, part of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, garnered substantial negative attention due to the excessive violence on the part of both the students and campus police. A now-viral video has documented students being pepper-sprayed by police and has become a form of “Occupy-propaganda,” painting the police as the oppressors and the protesters as the victims.
This video is now one of the many promotional videos for the Occupy movement. However, due to the violence and apparent mayhem that occurred, neither the Occupy protesters, the university officials nor the police ultimately appear in a positive light.
As a result of this incident, on Friday, May 4, UC, Davis released a draft report about how to better handle campus protests both in regard to police protocols and campus policies. The report outlines 50 tactics that utilize the perspectives of the university, the campus police and the student demonstrators.
The report asks the police to shift away from the old-school focus of maintaining order by using force such as pepper spray and batons and instead use a less violent approach.
The report also recognizes that the student protestors need to take more responsibility for their actions.
The situation at UC Davis represents a growing issue of campus protests, both at our University as well as at schools across the nation.
Through this report, UC Davis’ administration is trying to understand how to best manage demonstrations, allowing students to express themselves and further their social justice agenda while still maintaining peace and order.
The solution to this problem is not clear-cut; it’s relative to each individual university and protest.
One protest may naturally attract more tension than another depending on both the cause of the protest and the location. However, there is one fundamental concept that is relevant to all student protests. Both the university officials and the student demonstrators need to have an understanding of the other party involved. The university must acknowledge and accept the need for student protests on campus as part of the social reform agenda for which universities often strive.
Likewise, students need to recognize that the university will not tolerate violence on campus.
Part of the responsibility of a university is to ensure the safety of all students, and students must realize that safety is a major concern.
With this mutual understanding, student protests can be effective.
Protests can be successful, and, like Martin Luther King, Jr. said, are integral to democracy. Campus protests are essential to the social justice agenda of college students. Brandeis, as a school founded on the principles of social justice and reform, can benefit from more protests.
However, these protests must be conducted with decorum and integrity in order to be effective.