Protesting and Its Evolution: The Dark Side

By Rocky Fodali, Trending Writer

As America has matured through trying times, protesting always played an important part in accelerating change. From events like the famous “March on Washington” to the 2015 Baltimore protests, one fact has held true throughout time: peaceful protests are more successful than violent protests. Studies by notable sociologist Robb Willer expose a tendency in human nature. Per The Atlantic, he stated, “When the social order is being greatly disrupted, when property is being destroyed, when there’s some risk of harm to people, that leads to a dis-identification effect, where people say ‘I’m not like those people’”.  Therefore, instead of strengthening the cause, violence actually weakens protest movements, alienating the more moderate proponents of the movement. No one wants to be associated with violence, so any movements founded on violence will be likely to fail.

Today, it is hard to argue that movements are any more violent than they were in periods such as the 1960s and 1970s. In fact, it is easier to argue that protests have become less violent. When discussing the 1970s, experienced journalist and author L.A. Kauffman said, “a number of groups were experimenting with ideas of armed struggles, whether actually taking up guns and doing kidnappings for ransom or were setting off bombs or experimenting with full-on street fighting at protests”. Today, violent protests do obviously happen and are usually correlated with events such as controversial shootings. In response to the shooting of Keith Lamont Scott, a mentally disabled African American, rioters took to the streets of the city of Charlotte. Although initially peaceful, riots quickly turned violent, as protesters set fires, threw bottles, threw rocks, and looted shops. Protests that begin with a good cause seem to lose meaning with violent action. How does looting a shop or stealing money from an ATM help stop police brutality? Instead of hindering brutality, it perpetuates it. Therefore, despite generally being less violent than previous eras, protesting today often seems counterintuitive, thwarting the cause through inefficient measures.

In addition, social media negatively affected the landscape of protesting. A movement that genuinely is peaceful unfortunately can be depicted as one that is violent and hateful. All someone has to do is post an image of screaming people or a picture of a fire, and people will unknowingly attribute violence to the cause. Whereas mass media may tell a different story, Kauffman says that “’if you actually look at what’s been happening given the millions of people who have been out in the streets since January 20th, there’s almost nothing that you can point to’ as violent”. As violence lessens support for reform, social media has led to rising inefficiencies in protesting, therefore preventing progress.


A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 13th print edition.

Contact Rocky at


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