Protest – protected by the First Amendment – has a long history in American politics and social justice, from the Boston Tea Party to athletes kneeling during the national anthem.
But protests against gun violence, abortion rights, labor practices, the excessive use of force have occurred year after year — begging the question of how effective the practice is in bringing about change.
Ahead of the show, KCUR’s Up To Date asked Kansas citizens to tell us their thoughts on the protests. Here’s what some of them said:
- “Protests are still effective. The bigger the numbers, the more attention they get. But they have to be relentless. Too often the targets of demonstrations are just waiting for the protests to die down and get back to business as usual.”
- “I don’t usually attend protests. Instead I usually just want to approach the politician(s) via email. Although sometimes I encourage others to email or call as well.”
- “Large targeted peaceful protests get the attention of the press and our leadership, but I don’t think they change anyone’s mind; statewide referendums are more effective.”
- “I’m not sure… in 2020 it seemed that protests against police brutality would only lead to more police brutality. It also seems that no matter how peaceful a protest, there is always someone causing trouble, pushing people who don’t “I disagree with the protests blaming the protesters for the violence. I suspect the troublemakers are often the same group that blames the violence on protesters.”
Sandra Enriquez, an assistant professor of history at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, says there are many different protest strategies that “all play a role in bringing awareness and bringing about social change.” Social movements often come in waves, but work continues on the ground. “It’s really hard for any of these businesses, whether it’s grassroots organizing or more types of large-scale organizational tactics, to drive change,” Enriquez says.
One element that is often missing, according to KC Tenants director Tara Raghuveer, is organization. Protests often result from people coming together to express and channel their anger, but don’t always have the infrastructure to keep the pressure up.
“[I]If there’s no follow up from that, I think there’s real damage that can be done when people feel they can channel some of that anger, but then it goes nowhere, they lose faith in that process on itself “says Raghuveer.
“It’s not enough for people to show up episodically, when they’re shocked when they see something on social media. We need to build an organization towards which people can somehow channel their political life.”
Following the murder of George Floyd, Kansas City was one of many cities around the world that experienced multi-day protests against police violence and racism.
“[T]The 2020 protests at least, in the bare minimum, brought an awareness, and it kind of brought about the next wave of people who want to be educated,” Enriquez says.