They protested, did they not? Just asking?


Ah, the “protest” – the time-honored tradition of marching, kneeing, hoisting a poster, thrusting a clenched fist in the air – them all as American as apple pie.
Now before I proceed, I’ll admit that as a language fanatic I’m fascinated by the variants of and the power of words; including the word “protest.” I mean – and I’m not being facetious with these questions – but what’s the difference between a protest and a “rebellion,” or a “movement,” or an “uprising”, or an “insurrection,” or a “revolt,” or a “boycott,” or “civil disobedience,” and who decides?
I decided to do a bit of research oh how these terms were used over the years.
Now if we look beyond the protests that are sweeping the nation – the world in fact – these days, we do not have to delve too far to see historical variants of protests.
Take 1773 when protesters gathered in Boston Harbor to reject a shipment of tea from the East India Company, speaking out against the Tea Act which allowed that Company to sell its tea at a reduced cost. The colonists stormed the ships and chucked some 46 tons of that tea overboard.
They protested, did they not? Just asking.
“Civil Disobedience” is an essay by American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau first published in 1849. In it Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule their consciences, and that they have a duty to avoid allowing such acquiescence to enable the government to make them the agents of injustice. Thoreau was motivated in part by his disgust with slavery and the Mexican American War.

He protested, did he not? Just asking.

Mexican American Cesar Chavez was a prominent union leader and labor organizer who founded the National Farm Workers Association in 1962. His union joined with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee in its first strike against grape growers in California. Stressing nonviolent methods, Chavez drew attention for his causes via boycotts, marches and hunger strikes and was able to secure raises and improve conditions for farm workers in California, Texas, Arizona and Florida.
He protested, did he not? Just asking.
Then there’s Nat Turner, who led a slave rebellion in Virginia in 1931 and before that John Brown, the abolitionist who led a raid against slavery in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia in 1859.
They protested, did they not? Just asking.
Then there was the women suffrage movement when women rights trailblazers spearheaded the strong push for equal voting rights in the mid-19th century. After the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848, the rallying cry for women’s right to vote became a yell too loud to ignore.
They protested, did they not? Just asking.
And of course, during the well-documented civil rights movement during the sixties, non-violent protesters “marched” throughout the south for their right to vote and, in some cases were met with fire hoses and resistance.
They protested, did they not? Just asking.
Remember the Stonewall Rebellion – well, “riots” is how they were labeled – of 1969 when gay folks said enough is enough as they struck back at the mistreatment of their flock by the local New York City police? They launched a national movement towards gay rights.
They protested, did they not? Just asking.
When the World Trade Organization hosted its biannual meeting in Seattle demonstrators took to the streets just outside to decry the widening gap between the rich and poor worldwide.
They protested, did they not? Just asking.
Or how about the “Occupy Wall Street” movement, when 3,000 people assembled at Battery Park with the intention of occupying Wall Street to protest corruption in government?
They protested, did they not? Just asking.
How about the “Me Too” movement against sexual harassment and sexual abuse where women publicized their allegations of sex crimes committed by powerful men.
The protested, did they not?

The “Red Power” movement was a social movement led by Native American youth to demand self-determination for Native Americans in the United States. This movement sought the rights for Native Americans to make policies and programs for themselves while maintaining and controlling their own land and resources.

They protested, did they not? Just asking.
And lately there have been widely publicized rebellions against mask wearing and social distancing guidelines, some even deteriorating into confrontations.
They protested, did they not? Just asking.
So as you tune into the TV tonight and are confronted once again with marching protesters across the world, I leave you with the following quote by Eli Weisel:
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”
I’ll append that quote with the word “peacefully.”
© Terry Howard is an award-winning writer and storyteller. He is also a contributing writer with the Chattanooga News Chronicle, The American Diversity Report, The Douglas County Sentinel, The Atlanta Business Journal, The Echo World, co-founder of the “26 Tiny Paint Brushes” writers’ guild, and recipient of the 2019 Dr. Martin Luther King Leadership Award. He can be reached at wwhoward3@gmail.com

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