“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” –Elie Wiesel At the end of last month, hundreds of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets all over the world in a protest that came to be known as “The March for Our Lives.” This protest, led by student survivors of the South Florida school shooting, filled the air with chants of “enough is enough!” The marchers, fighting to protect the country against future shootings, urged law makers to drop backing from the NRA and support gun control legislation. “We’re going to make this the voting issue,” march organizer David Hogg said, “We’re going to take this to every election, to every state and every city.”
No matter what your feelings on guns may be, watching the young, passionate students speaking out for the loss of their classmates was bound to stir up some powerful emotions. The pure size and magnitude of the marches as they filled the streets from New York to Washington, to Indiana and beyond, sent my heart ablaze as I witnessed first-hand the power of a peaceful protest. I’ve heard it expressed many times before that protest doesn’t change anything, that people just need to be quiet and accept things as they are. But seeing what happened when people had the strength to come together assured me of just the opposite.
True, no magical bill to end school shootings was passed overnight, but people began to talk. People moved passed thoughts and prayers and let those in power know their feelings on the issues. And that alone can be a very powerful thing. According to the findings of a 2018 NBC news poll, nearly 97 percent of those surveyed expressed support for universal background checks with over 50 percent of gun owners supporting additional gun legislation. Changing people’s minds is not the problem. Getting them to act is. And there’s no better way to stir up passion and action for an issue than to get people talking about it.
It wasn’t just the March for Our Lives utilizing the power of democracy in these past few months, either. On January 20th, women marched the streets on the anniversary of the president’s inauguration and on April 14th, thousands of protestors took to the capitol to demonstrate their support for scientific research and education. And these were only a couple of the protests that have been organized in the past year. Some might view it as a negative, that we have so many things to protest. But I choose to look at it differently. The protests prove that democracy is working. People have a voice, a freedom to speak out against injustices, and a responsibility to do exactly that. Anyone who needs reminding of the power of protest just need think back to Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, or Gandhi. People have the power to change things. They just have to be brave enough to stand up and do it.