Two very dif­fer­ent demon­stra­tions

Maryland Independent - - Community Forum -

Last Fri­day and Satur­day were two re­mark­able demon­stra­tions of democ­racy in ac­tion.

First, on Fri­day af­ter­noon Don­ald J. Trump was sworn in as our 45th pres­i­dent of the United States. Af­ter be­ing sworn in, Trump ad­dressed the coun­try for the first time as pres­i­dent, stat­ing he was go­ing to en­sure that power was put back in the hands of the Amer­i­can peo­ple, all Amer­i­can peo­ple, and also thanked out­go­ing Pres­i­dent Barack Obama for help­ing to en­sure a peace­ful trans­fer of power from the for­mer Demo­cratic-con­trolled White House to the newly Repub­li­can-con­trolled of­fice of the Ex­ec­u­tive Branch.

The peace­ful trans­fer of power was marred by out­breaks of vi­o­lence, as trash cans were set on fire, store­front win­dows were smashed and a pocket of of­fend­ers de­cided to clash with po­lice. More than 200 ar­rests were re­ported by po­lice. The news of these vi­o­lent “pro­test­ers” act­ing out left a bad taste in just about every­one’s mouth — Repub­li­can or Demo­crat, Clin­ton sup­porter or Trump sup­porter. Vi­o­lent demon­stra­tions rarely do any­thing to sway the court of pub­lic opin­ion and of­ten de­stroy any mes­sage (if there ever was one) those van­dals were at­tempt­ing to make. We be­lieve they didn’t have a mes­sage at all: they were sim­ply there to dis­rupt the event and wreak havoc.

Then Satur­day dawned in the na­tion’s capital. An­other demon­stra­tion had been planned, shortly af­ter Trump was elected: the Women’s March on Wash­ing­ton. The march was not only a state­ment of dis­agree­ment with the new pres­i­dent for many of­fen­sive things he said about women dur­ing his cam­paign, but also a state­ment about the im­por­tance of sup­port­ing ba­sic hu­man rights and civil rights for every­one. Women from ev­ery­where de­scended on the streets of Wash­ing­ton, D.C., most wear­ing pink hats sym­bol­iz­ing their unity (de­spite hav­ing what some be­lieve to be an of­fen­sive moniker), car­ry­ing signs and walk­ing through the city, some­times stop­ping to lis­ten to speak­ers in at­ten­dance, in­clud­ing celebri­ties and ac­tivists. The num­bers of women (and men and chil­dren) in at­ten­dance has been es­ti­mated at more than a mil­lion, but an ac­cu­rate count may never truly sur­face. They were joined by mil­lions of oth­ers march­ing in cities around the world. No ar­rests or out­bursts re­sult­ing in vi­o­lence were re­ported.

Both in­ci­dents were heav­ily crit­i­cized. It was easy to point out that the in­di­vid­u­als car­ry­ing out the vi­o­lent at­tacks on Fri­day were bla­tant dis­obe­di­ence, and an­tag­o­nis­tic acts against law en­force­ment. These acts should never be con­doned.

The sec­ond demon­stra­tion on Satur­day, how­ever, should be praised. Whether peo­ple agreed with or even un­der­stood why the march was hap­pen­ing, the fact that thou­sands of peo­ple or­ga­nized, mostly through so­cial me­dia and word of mouth, ob­tained the proper per­mits to demon­strate and did so for hours, not only in Wash­ing­ton, D.C, but in other ma­jor na­tional and in­ter­na­tional cities — all with­out a sin­gle re­ported ar­rest or vi­o­lent out­burst. That’s stag­ger­ing. It will be re­mem­bered as an out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of how to band to­gether and bring at­ten­tion to the mes­sage, not cause dis­rup­tion or dis­trac­tion from it.

We hope oth­ers who de­cide to en­gage in acts of peace­ful protest take no­tice of last Satur­day and use it as a blue­print for fu­ture demon­stra­tions. Many women just showed you how to do it right.

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