Peaceful protests have served as the foundation for change throughout the United States’ history and the world. In light of recent events, Oswego State President Deborah Stanley held a town hall meeting on Feb. 8 to discuss the effectiveness of peaceful protests and the importance of having an open mind in order to move forward.
“Our voices may not be acknowledged, but they can be heard,” Stanley said.
The meeting raised the question of whether or not the peaceful protests are effective in bringing about change.
To judge whether peaceful protests prove effective, it is important to consider examples of civil disobedience that altered the course of history. In 1930, Mahatma Gandhi led a peaceful protest against Britain’s law, which restricted the collection of salt by Indians. Known as the “Salt March,” the 240-mile journey by foot led to the liberation of India from British rule and became one of the most prominent demonstrations of a successful peaceful protest in world history.
Gandhi’s leadership style and non-violent approach eventually became synonymous with peaceful protesting and served as inspiration for activists like Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks during the Civil Rights Movement. King referenced the “Gandhian method of nonviolence” as one of the most effective tools available to those striving to achieve freedom.
With peace at the forefront, King utilized his constitutional rights and with the help of other protesters, spread the message that all people are deserving of equal rights. The outcome of movements led by King and Parks took the weight of law, when the United States Supreme Court deemed segregation unconstitutional, effectively altering the course of American politics and society.
Injustice continues to echo throughout today’s society, as demonstrated in recent social and political upheavals. Many contemporary resistance movements such as Black Lives Matter and the historic Women’s March on Washington reflect the nonviolent approach seen in past successful protests. In this sense, civil disobedience produces a domino effect that continues to bring about change and progress.
It is important to understand that change does not happen overnight. It took Gandhi 17 years before India was freed from British rule and yet, he was still viewed as one of the most successful and inspirational participants of civil disobedience. In order to move forward, people must first take the time to educate themselves on the, issues at hand and understand the varying perspectives that others may have. Opening peoples’ minds to new ideas allows them to develop their thoughts and determine how they view the world. This is a crucial first step in being a part of the change.
As Gandhi said, “Nonviolence is an intensely active force when properly understood and used.” With an open mind and peaceful attitude, people are able to come together and make a difference.