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Stopping the George Floyd protests is unpatriotic
The problem with the police and military shutdowns of these protests is a constitutional one. It is a direct violation of the ensured right to free speech. The fact that these orders are coming from the President illustrates a dangerous shift towards a nation deprived of its fundamental rights. Once the right to protest has been taken away, our civil liberties hang by a thread; and so does what it means to be an American.America George Floyd Protests
According to Share America, the foreign policy communication platform for the U.S. Department of State, protests are a staple of American culture. The government holds permission to regulate the form of protest to ensure the safety of the population, but they are not to silence anyone based on a protester’s ideals; this restrictive behavior is illegal and reminiscent of totalitarian regimes. The protest, Vox illustrates, has always been so ingrained in the American identity, that public dissent in the spirit of a better world has become part of our popular culture. The article chronicles “American protest music” from Yankee Doodle (a mocking song by the British armies which Americans reclaimed and weaponized during the American Revolution) to Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn” after the murder of activist Medgar Ever, to Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” in support of the LGBTQIA+ community. Yet, there is a disconnect in the present-day United States leadership. On September 4, 2018, President Donald Trump said, “I think it’s embarrassing for the country to allow protesters.” While Trump claims to understand and support the fury of his citizens, there has been no move to listen and make a change actively. The issue is deemed a fluke rather than a systemic problem. Crackdown on protests has been violent and uncalled for, says the United Nations, especially for a country founded on rebellion for justice. This silencing ignores the very purpose of the protests, which is to both call attention to the intersection of police brutality and racism in the United States and to call for tangible change from the nation’s leaders. Protesters want their country to be safe and true to the constitution. We cannot be free until every single person is free. Protesters refuse to suffer in silence while they watch the country that had sworn to protect them crumble by the hands of racist systems that were in place when slavery was still legal. Especially in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, throwing protesters into prison for a patriotic act is dangerous and unpatriotic.
The George Floyd protests might not actually be patriotic, and that’s okay. In 2016, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem to peacefully and powerfully protest pervasive racism in the United States. The nation quickly erupted in pride for some, and outrage for others. There is debate over whether or not Kaepernick's protest is patriotic, and Mychal Denzel Smith’s 2018 article from The Guardian asserts that this is beside the point. Kaepernick’s personal feelings about the US aside, he chose to support those who have been violently oppressed rather than honoring the country on the day he took a knee. Choosing to act unpatriotically is a valid and effective form of protest when people’s lives are at stake. Smith says, “Patriotism is not a higher virtue than justice.” According to an article written by Sociology professor Lilian Bobea in The Conversation, the current protests in the aftermath of the murder of George Floyd have a lot more in common with Latin American protest than they do with American culture. She explains that protests throughout Latin America do not have the same pop-up nature they do in the United States; they are rather more often part of “sustained movements… [that] seek regime change or an entirely new constitutional order.” They seem far less symbolic and in support of upholding constitutional ideals (although Bobea recognizes the power of this kind of protest) and are much more rooted in a desire to overthrow the system. Oftentimes, these protests last for multiple years. Now, says Bobea, the United States is employing this mode of protest, which turns its back on patriotism. Bobea makes the point that while democracy is now prevalent in Latin America, authoritarianism has also survived. The United States, she says, is experiencing a very similar case with the current leadership of President Donald Trump, who is bluntly contentious and demanding, whether or not one agrees with his policies. Bobea notes that George Floyd protests have outnumbered the massive women’s marches of 2017 and they have gone global. They are not in defense of the constitution; they are not asking leadership for a fix; rather, they are asking for the United States to rebuild. These protests, like Colin Kaepernick, choose the people over the state.
Rejecting the premises