Public response to controversial issues like police brutality, President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, and revelations of sexual assault and harassment in Hollywood sparked a wave of recent protests across the nation. An effective protest includes a diverse population, substantial supporters, endurance, and most importantly—nonviolent action.
According to Kendrick T. Douglas of Psychological Today, nonviolent protests are often more successful than violent ones. If a cause condones violence, many potential allies might feel like they are supporting or fighting for violence. More people are willing to listen and understand the necessity of a nonviolent protest.
For example, National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick quietly sat on the bench during the National Anthem to protest the continual oppression of African-Americans in the United States during August 2016. As the football season progressed, Kaepernick and his teammate Eric Reid began to kneel instead of sitting. This small action of kneeling caused a ripple effect in the NFL, and many other players, including Marshawn Lynch and Brandon Marshall, followed suit. This form of protest shed light on decades of mistreatment of the African-American community and demanded change without violence.
Although deemed controversial to some, the subtle but immensely powerful action of kneeling during such a well-respected ceremony caught America by surprise and forced individuals to pay attention to the cause and reasoning behind it. The practice of nonviolence allows space for individuals to reflect on where they stand and why a protest occurs.
Dating back to the March on Washington in 1963, the nonviolent gathering of African-Americans helped pass the Civil Rights Act a year later. When people come together and use their platforms and voices to stand up for their beliefs without violence they can better enact change. This takes time, but nonviolent, passionate protests and substantial supporters can lead an effective movement.