You Decide: are protests harmful or beneficial?

Kiran Singh, Beyond Liberty Editor

Upon the submission of the executive order regarding travel suspensions, unplanned and reactionary protests took place through the swarming of prominent airports nationwide. The protests aimed to get detained travelers released and stand against the executive order. Many people ask: What does this achieve?—the protesters aren’t lawyers that can legally get the detainees released, nor are they executives or lobbyists with enough power to push Congress towards discerning the legality of the matter—so, people ask, what’s the point?
The point isn’t just sending a message, but in fact, to show a need for change. To have millions of Americans marching in the streets and flooding airports is to show unity in discontent. To protest is to honor the roots of our great nation, which sprouted from seeds of mass disapproval.
To say that protests are unpatriotic is too hypocritical than is good for one’s health. The founding of our nation was literally initiated by the destruction of private property.
However, the opposing side must be considered. Protests disrupt daily life, like causing traffic jams; just in the past week, anti-Trump protesters blocked a highway, stopping an ambulance from reaching a hospital with a critically ill patient and forcing an EMT to perform an emergency procedure on the patient. When it endangers people’s well-being or damages property, many can agree that those actions are not civil disobedience, but civil unrest. The former doesn’t usually cause someone else physical or financial harm, as it usually means actions like not paying taxes (Henry D. Thoreau) or illegally voting (Susan B. Anthony); the latter, on the other hand, involves violence or public endangerment. While civil unrest tells a lot about the sentiments of the citizens of a nation, it usually doesn’t garner the legitimacy of movements like silent marches or peaceful sit-ins.
Other people take issue with protest in general, arguing that it doesn’t make laws, rid of tyrants, or transform a nation. This questions the effectiveness of protest in the long-run. The point is, it’s not about immediate or tangible change. It’s about one’s willingness to stand up for something no matter the circumstances in hopes of generating long term change. That, if not admirable, is a core American value.
In a tumultuous political climate and agitated global stage, we must not disregard protests as petulant complaints or signals of entitlement amongst a portion of our population. Instead, we must all take a step forward to the center, and become willing to understand the fears, rights, and beliefs of all components of our nation, instead of attacking protesters for supposed fragility, when it takes more courage to protest than to be comfortable as the majority.