by: Meghan Hamley
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect views of the Journal, the William H. Bowen School of Law, or UA Little Rock.
Over the course of the last year, we have seen a number of protests in this country from either side of the political spectrum. Recently, there has been a social media outcry stating that each new protest is a reaction from another protest. This is simply not true. Every protest is a microcosm of issues each side is attempting to rectify with the rights they are granted in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and should be treated as such even if you do not agree with the issues personally.
The First Amendment of the Constitution guarantees each American citizen the right to peacefully assemble and petition the government for a redress of grievances. By discussing the legitimacy of each protest rather than the substance of the issues that are forcing citizens to feel as if they need to exercise their constitutional right, we are missing a giant piece of our democracy.
From the American Revolution to the Occupy movement in the early 2010s, nearly every political movement in American history has had a protest. Yet, with the passage of time our culture shifts from caring about how these individuals protest, to the issues they represent. I propose we take this step earlier, and we stop trying to invalidate others right to peacefully assemble by stating they don’t have a right to protest, or legitimacy in their protest, and start looking at the substance of these assemblies and the government’s response to these assemblies.
Two of these assemblies are the Black Lives Matter movement and the Proud Boys or Far-Right movement. The Black Lives Matter movement protested consistently last summer for the lives of minorities against over-policing and differential treatment between races in like kind crimes.
The Proud Boys movement or the Far-Right movement are two groups of individuals that substantively represent the same issue: Keep Trump in power and what they view as the liberal agenda in check. These are clearly two very different movements with two different priorities, yet they see themselves as natural responses to each other’s political progression, and both political movements protested at similar or the same times in protests and counter-protests. Yet these movements are substantively polar opposites. One group is against the disparate treatment of others by their government, and the other is to keep a president in power after a legitimately held election and upcoming transfer of power.
Each movement views each other as illegitimate yet they were both present and had their own set of beliefs. They were both present at the same time and yet treated very differently from their government. This is a fundamental issue that must be addressed, the government choosing who to police and who not to police is a very concerning issue. The stifling and over-policing of one movement and then another being actively encouraged by police represents a shift of what the police actually is. Instead of representing all of the citizenry, the police is beginning to represent the few and those they support politically. Will this change the future of policing? Of will this change the future of protesting?