Reporters and politicians no longer understand “peaceful protests” – if they even care to. Standing amidst scenes of brutality and burning they will speak of “mostly peaceful protests.” The tradition and right of peaceful protest is inscribed in our Constitution, the First Amendment. According to it, our government cannot prohibit or abridge “the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
“A peaceful protest, also known as nonviolent resistance or nonviolent action, is the act of expressing disapproval through a statement or action without the use of violence.”
This freedom is among the first, along with freedom of religion, of speech, and of the press. It must be practiced, promoted, and protected. However, it must also be appreciated and understood. “Peaceful” protest is non-violent. That is not too hard to understand. Burning cars and buildings is not peaceful protest. Dragging people out of cars is not peaceful protest. Threatening, beating, or shooting people is not peaceful protest. Vandalizing property, looting, or stealing is not peaceful protest. These are not even “mostly peaceful protests.” Yes, sometimes while these things are happening another group of people might be peacefully protesting. Nevertheless, when hoodlums take over sections of cities and set themselves up in some kind of authority, speaking of “mostly peaceful protests” quickly loses its meaning.
Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. were instrumental in developing and distilling the practice of peaceful protest in modern times. This practice works through gaining sympathy among the broader ranks of society. Peaceful protesters believe in their cause. They are willing to expose themselves to physical danger. They do not harass or harm those against whom they were protesting. This highlights the justness of their cause. Resorting to violence and mob action means some will recoil in horror from their cause, while others are incited to fight even harder against. There is genius – and I believe biblical foundation – in the method of peaceful protest as opposed to mob action.
Joel B. Pollak writes, “As a society, we have lost touch with what the idea of ‘peaceful protest’ is. This is a very dangerous deficiency, because it means our political future could become more and more violent and unstable...”
The right to protest is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the United States Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.