The United States of America has a long history of dissent.
This is a history of protest that dates back before our constitution which paved the way for the Colonies separation from English rule.
The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law abridging the freedom of speech or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for redress of grievances.”
As early as 1912 America experienced the Labor Movement and what was termed as the “Bread and Roses” strike. An influential songwriter by the name of Joe Hill wrote songs to unite the working class. In the 1960’s, Joan Baez sang a song about Mr. Hill at a peaceful concert/Vietnam War demonstration known as Woodstock.
Still throughout our history there have been countless protests which were far from peaceful. In 1917 members of the National Women’s Party were arrested for obstructing traffic when they picketed President Woodrow Wilson’s Whitehouse. Alice Paul, who led the movement, was arrested and sentenced to 7 months in prison where she began a hunger strike. After five weeks Alice was released but not until 1920 did a woman’s right to vote becomes the 19th Amendment of the
Constitution. And of course the Civil Rights Movement, which stretched from
Lincoln and in some ways even today, has been wrought with violence.
The list goes on. The first prominent rally against the Vietnam War happened in 1965. In 2003 demonstrators marched all over the country in protest of the U.S. war in Iraq, but somewhere along the way the protesters messages got lost. Media coverage was more about the “few” instead of the majority and the majority’s reason for protesting. The violence, vandalism and anarchy seem to be all the media, and for that matter the public, is interested in.
As recent as last week, two men were arrested on terrorism charges at the NATO Summit in Chicago, IL. Sebastian Senakiewicz, 24, and Mark Neiweem, 28, were charged with attempted possession of explosives. Fox News reported there were also around 100 arrested for charges which included vandalism, urinating on police cars, and four assaults on police officers including one officer being stabbed in the leg.
So what was the message that the media covered? Violence! Destruction of property! Arrests! Why were the majority of demonstrators there? Could it have been to protest the war in Afghanistan? Could it have been about Kosovo? Global war conflicts in general? Sorry, didn’t hear much about that on
the news stations.
Yes, our history of dissent has not always been peaceful. Still, our advances in technology, education and basic common sense should have taught us that usually nothing gets accomplished by throwing stones. And, our news organizations should have learned by now that there is more to a story than sensationalism.
I invite your comments.