Tuesday, July 21, 2020
From the Boston Tea Party to the Revolutionary War, many historians consider protest essential to America’s identity. Today, however, figuring out the right way to protest has become highly contentious.
Even before the United States of America was founded, dissent was a part of the colonist character. In 1773, protesters stormed British ships and dumped 46 tons of tea overboard. We recognize this event as the Boston Tea Party and one of America’s defining moments.
Today, however, we don’t always look so fondly on protesters.
In 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem, sparking national outcry and comments from then presidential candidate Donald Trump, who said NFL players protesting during the anthem should leave the country.
In 2018, hundreds of thousands gathered in Washington for “March For Our Lives” demanding new gun laws, while the NRA claimed it was part of a plan to “DESTROY the Second Amendment and strip us of our right to defend ourselves and our loved ones."
When protests rippled across the country this year in response to the killing of George Floyd, the president denounced participants as “thugs,” stating, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Despite protest being a key ingredient to the founding of America, even the most peaceful examples of protest today have become fodder for criticism.
We speak to a panel that has lived and researched protests in Charlotte and beyond to see if what Thomas Jefferson once said still holds true: “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing... It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.”
Claire Tandoh, 17-year-old activist and founder of Kidz Fed Up
Braxton Winston, Charlotte City Council at-large representative
David Meyer, professor of sociology and political science at the University of California Irvine and author of "The Politics of Protest: Social Movements in America”