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Should American citizens have the right to peacefully protest in a public setting?

Illustration by Daryl Gichui

Illustration by Daryl Gichui

Illustration by Daryl Gichui

Joey O'Kelly

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   Kneeling during the national anthem has caused some divisiveness across the nation but The Bell staff was united on their opinions, with every staff member voting that American citizens should have the right to peacefully protest in a public setting.

   One point a staff member brought up was that these protests aren’t anything new. Protests have been happening since the 1960s but have recently been reintroduced due to injustices across America as well as comments made by president Donald Trump.

   While modern athletes are kneeling during the anthem, past athletes have protested by putting fists in the air or wearing shirts with messages of protest solidarity during warm-ups.

   One case that particularly pertains to students is the Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School district in 1969. Three students wanted to protest the Vietnam War by wearing black armbands with peace symbols on them to school and they were suspended. After sueing with the help of the ACLU, the Supreme Court ruled that this is a simple case of freedom of speech and expression and those rights “are not shed at the school gates.”

   Another point mentioned often in the staff debate was the importance of understanding why athletes are kneeling. Individuals have different reasons for kneeling but many of them revolve around the distress and aggravation they feel in the country. Some felt as a whole it wouldn’t be morally correct to stand for a nation that consistently oppresses people of different minorities, in this case different races. They felt that by standing, they were saying that what was going on in the country was OK with them.

   One teacher spoke with her military husband about the subject and he stated he does not have an issue with athletes kneeling. In response, staff members wondered how people can say that kneeling is disrespectful to the military when a member of the military has stated they are fine with kneeling.

     While some students understand the reason some athletes kneel and they’re fine with that reason, they feel there are better ways to protest and better platforms to do so. However, many staff members agreed that those who have a platform to be heard need to use it.

   An underlying theme for the whole staff discussion was the First Amendment with the freedom of speech and freedom of peaceful protests. Staff members felt this was a peaceful protest where athletes were using their right to free speech and therefore should not face any consequences for their actions. Since the actions of the athletes are not harming others, they should not be punished because of their First Amendment rights.

   Another staff member stated that while people feel like standing for the national anthem is respectful and patriotic, they pointed out that patriotism is not forcing people to stand for the anthem, instead it’s people loving their country enough to want to do it by their own free will.  It’s for these reasons that the staff members voted unanimously that American citizens should have the right to peacefully protest in a public setting.

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Should American citizens have the right to peacefully protest in a public setting?