22/01/2017 12:10 GMT | Updated 22/01/2018 05:12 GMT

The Difference Between Helpful And Unhelpful Protesting

The Washington protestors on the Presidential inauguration day have illustrated the difference between helpful and unhelpful protesting. In news broadcasts of the anti-Trump protest a stark contrast quickly became noticeable between the two different types of protestors: those who conveyed their dissatisfaction peacefully, and those who displayed a violent and aggressive form of activism.

The aggressive protestors' method, involving vandalising public property and brandishing banners with anger-inducing slogans such as "make racists afraid again", drew attention to the unthought-out nature of their demonstration. These protestors instinctively acted in anger without properly evaluating how their anger could be converted into something more productive. The tone of the slogans that they displayed on their banners could only ultimately hinder their cause. Statements such as those that reduced all Trump voters to the one-worded assumption of "racist" will only serve to finalise the isolation of the unempathetic with the anti-Trump cause, preventing them from attempting to understand the anti-Trump perspective. Furthermore, it has made anti-Trump protestors appear as angry and filled with hostility as the person that they're protesting against - ultimately detracting from the anti-hate-inspired purpose that they were trying to stand for. Violent protestors have also supplied Trump with a plausible reason to denounce the anti-Trump cause in general, he can now label all protestors as criminals with the intent to create havoc and inhibit progress in American governance.

Examples of helpful protestors, in fact the majority of protestors in Washington, were also given a decent amount of screen-time on the news, although they were unfortunately overshadowed by the more violent practices of the few disruptive demonstrators. A large group of people, protesting in solidarity, demonstrated the power in numbers. They did not vandalise or engage in any aggressive activities, yet they still made their frustration well-known, as it was impossible for news broadcasters to ignore such a substantial crowd at the door of the inauguration. They did not sink down to the level of some hate-spewing individuals who have attended Trump's rallies in the past. Rather, they gained credibility by controlling their anger and channelling it in a healthy way, with the intent of raising awareness of the disapproval that many Americans feel in regard to their new prejudice-inspiring President. They presented banners with messages that, rather than simply unhelpfully promoting resentment towards Trump-supporters, highlighted the injustices that Trump has actively advocated. Examples of slogans that served to this effect included "Americans against xenophobia, hate, sexism" and, simply yet poignantly, "Love Trumps Hate". One of these protestors calmly explained her reasons for her activism in a relatable way to Sky News, voicing her displeasure by the prospect of being governed by a man who has demeaned women in so many ways. She additionally denounced the protestors who were engaging in violent acts, emphasising that they did not represent the vast majority of peaceful demonstrators.

The peaceful protestors, although not fighting for the same cause or having experienced the same oppressions, walked in the footsteps of the South Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) when it was led by Martin Luther King, Jr. The SCLC's legacy, illustrating the power of peaceful protesting, could be seen as people united in solidarity against racial, religious and gendered discrimination. The fact that Trump has been allowed to become President, despite spurring prejudice and actively promising to make America a more intolerant nation with the production of literal barriers dividing people from each other, has encouraged a generalised idea of the American people - that they might be as intolerant as the person who they elected. However, the facts show that he was not elected but instead was able to claim the Presidency through a strange system that has overlooked the vote of the majority. The peaceful protestors who voted against Trump exhibited the values that they really stand for during the inauguration, holding up banners stressing what they actively do not support - racism; sexism, homophobia, etc. In this way, they followed the path paved for them by peaceful protestors in the past, whose non-violent activism has genuinely brought about change and has helped to combat injustices against the American people.

Anti-Trump protestors will only have a chance of gaining credibility for their cause, among Trump supporters and on a global level, and they will only have a chance of successfully damaging Trump's Presidency in some way or other, if they protest in a way that can be taken seriously and respected. People don't gain support through engaging in criminal acts. How can someone realistically expect to persuade others of the criminality that they're protesting against if they are engaging in criminal acts their self?