Disagreement is not an excuse for violence
By Colten Kamlade, Senior Columnist
Since Trump has become president, it seems like there has been a new protest taking place every other week. It makes me wonder what place civil disobedience has in society.
I’ve always admired Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr., and other peaceful activists, but I have not given much thought to the more violent forms of protest. It seems certain that under extreme circumstances—such as living under tyrannical rule—violent resistance is justified. In a democratic society, however, I cannot endorse any form of illegal, violent behaviour.
Violent forms of protest are ineffective. In the past hundred years, the most effective makers of change have been nonviolent groups. The suffrage movement and the civil rights movement succeeded using peaceful methods of protest. It’s true that during the suffrage movement fringe groups detonated bombs, wielded knives, and spread terror, but it’s usually argued that these groups had hindered progress. Similarly, it was Martin Luther King Jr. who advanced civil rights for black men and women the most, not the Black Panthers.
Violent forms of protest are anti-democratic. There have been many unjust laws in the past, but there is a system through which we can challenge these laws. Sometimes, it is frustrating having to work through the tangle of bureaucracy, but if the majority of people want change, they will get it. The system is definitely flawed, but it’s better than any other we’ve figured out. If you try to force change through threats of violence, you might as well throw away the system.
Violent forms of protest are immoral. Hurting others, whether through assault or vandalism, is not acceptable. Regardless of how much good you think you will do through violence, you still have no right to hurt other people. This does not include self-defence, which I believe may be permissible when physically defending yourself or others from direct harm. Recent examples of violence during protests, however, do not fall under these categories. Anti-Trump protestors may think their opponents are disgusting people and that their ideas are harmful, but that does not give them a free pass to engage in violence.
I’m often tempted to endorse violent groups when I agree with their ideals. Democracy can be slow, messy, and painful to watch. It does make progress though, eventually. Society has changed for the better, and I believe it will continue to do so. We just need to have a little patience, and a little faith, for the time being.