Are We Truly Allowing People to Peacefully Protest?

Written by: Lane Barrette, Editor in Chief

The First Amendment of 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.” The fourth article of the First Amendment guarantees every citizen the right to protest political issues, peacefully, without any interference from the federal government, as well as local governments.

As of recently, controversy over National Football League (NFL) players and their decisions to peacefully protest (kneeling and linking arms) during the national anthem, has become a main topic of discussion. Taking a step back and looking at both sides of the argument, supporting the right to peacefully protest and kneel during the national anthem is in the right, while opposition is in the wrong.

Whenever there is a controversy, everyone takes a side; these sides include disapproving, supporting, or anywhere in between on their stance of the issue. First, addressing both sides is vital to understanding what is actually happening. Beginning with the opposed view, a common response from people opposed to the actions of certain NFL players is a general misunderstanding of why these player choose to take a knee.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people, and people of color,” Kaepernick said in a press conference after first sitting out during the anthem. “To me, this is bigger than football, and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street, and people getting paid leave, and getting away with murder,” said San Francisco 49’s Quarterback Colin Kaepernick during an interview.

The home of the brave and the land of the free is what the United States’ founding fathers wished the country to be. But the reality of the current state of the nation is not the land of the free. The people who fought and died for this country fought for a country where this form of division amongst the nation does not exist. The decision to display a discomfort for the social injustice is exactly what the people who fought for each and every American’s right to freedom, would have wanted.

The current state of the nation is not the land of the free. With bigotry and lack of equality for all goes against what the nation was built on.

“Black people are three times most likely to be killed by police than a white person. In 2015, 60% of black victims were unarmed compared to 21% of white victims. This means black people are not just killed because they’ve committed a crime, but because of their race. Fewer than 1 in 3 black people that were killed by the police in America in 2014, were suspected of a violent crime and allegedly armed,” said Stanford Graduate Samuel Sinyangwe.

Secondly, the misconception that not showing direct attention to the flag while kneeling is disrespectful, is not true. Unlike other parts of the Flag Code, Article C states that standing is considered equally as disrespectful as holding the flag horizontally, yet people continue to do this each Sunday, and Fourth of July. Speaking of Fourth of July, something as simple as wearing the flag on an article of clothing, and using it as decoration, is also considered disrespectful, which is stated in Article D.

Both sides of the argument need to do a better job of learning the motives of these peaceful protestors, which can help build an understanding of the status quo. Once this is achieved, the nation can finally be closer to unity amongst everyone, regardless of ethnicity.