OPINION: Please, Protest Responsibly


Theo Davis

There is a right way, and a wrong way to protest and exercise the right to free speech. Middlebury students recently chose the wrong method in a protest on their campus. On March 2, 2017 Charles Murray, a conservative author, political scientist, and sociologist was to give a speech to students at Middlebury College. He was met with vehement protests from audience members due to his racist views which had him incapable of making this speech. For example in his book The Bell Curve, published in 1994, Murray made several statements saying that women, blacks, and Latinos are intellectually inferior due to a history of bad genes. Students stood in protest with their backs to Murray, holding signs in protest of both his invitation to Middlebury, and his views. After it became evident Murray would not be able to give the speech at that location he was moved to an undisclosed location on the campus to give his speech so that it could be viewed online. However, protesters found this location and proceeded to crowd around him and a faculty member Allison Stanger as they were leaving the campus.  Stanger was injured when somebody pulled her hair and twisted her neck, sending her to the emergency room.

It is a typical first amendment discussion. Is it infringing on Murray’s right to freedom of speech and expression? Or, are the protesters justified themselves, in speaking their mind in opposition to supporting Murray because of his views? It is my opinion that neither side of this argument can truly be justified while proving the other completely incorrect. One side might argue that the students stopped Murray from saying his beliefs, while the other would state this is because his beliefs can be interpreted as hate speech. Instead, what I think this incident shows us, is that there are right and wrong ways to protest.

The bottom line is, protesting something you oppose is acceptable and should even be welcomed, but there is a certain way to do it so that you represent yourself as an intelligent individual with integrity. Many people know that the way that which they protest may not present them as someone with these characteristics In my opinion, the most civilized form of protest is discussion. Both sides state their arguments and have a debate. This way, both groups can see the reasoning behind the protest and hopefully solve the disputed issue and things such as emotion do not get out of control and cause the demonstration to spiral to madness. Other forms of protest also work, but all demonstrations have to be peaceful. If we are violent we have already lost the argument. Violence can signify to our opponent that we do not have a solid argument. It also allows our opponent to cite violence as a way to nullify our argument, even if we have a valid point.

While the method of protest initially used by the Middlebury students was effective and innocent enough, it is not how protests of these types should be done. When it comes to politics it is much more effective to prove someone wrong, than to just shout, “You’re wrong!” and ignore their argument. Think about it. If someone comes to speak to your school and their views clearly demonstrate something you oppose or think is incorrect. If you listen to them, then call them out on everything that is false and back up your argument with facts, then you can prove them wrong, instead of just feeling they are wrong.