Protest or propaganda? DSU students, faculty debate issue around inauguration protests

Share This:

One week after the 2017 election, Abbi Covington, a senior psychology major from Motoqua, booked her flight to Washington D.C. for the Women’s March. Covington said she knew that she wouldn’t forgive herself if she didn’t go make her voice heard.

Covington said her story was that of a girl who grew up suppressed by men. She was told she would never get an education, that her only purpose was to live for men and give birth to their babies, and that her existence was disgusting and my voice meaningless.

Hundreds of thousands of people attended the Women’s March in the Washington D.C. on Jan. 21, and similar protests against Trump’s policies are still ongoing. 

“No matter what we all believed in, we believed in each other’s right to be heard,” Covington said. “There were a lot of issues [we were protesting], not because we are complaining snowflakes but because [women] have systematically been oppressed in nearly every culture of the world for as long as we have recorded memory,”

Covington said she found love and kindness from complete strangers in Washington D.C.. She said she felt protected and united with the masses of diverse people protesting next to her.

“I doubt anyone in that mall stood there without a personal reason — a story they have held on to and cried over,” Covington said. “We protest because the wage gap and the glass ceiling are real things, because black lives really do matter, because global warming is real, because science is real…and because silencing voices is oppression.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the masses of people protesting are trying to reach out to an even larger number of people to shed light on what they believe is social injustice, and if the protests can get enough attention, they could help persuade government officials to make changes. The Hill compared the march to the Civil Rights Movement.

“We were exhausted and tired and hungry, having had flown there unable to sleep on the uncomfortable red eye,” Covington said. “We got to our hotel with only enough time to brush our teeth and sit for half an hour before beginning our walk. Despite everything I for one barely noticed.”

Covington said we shouldn’t call protests complaining because the US essentially started because grown adults had a tantrum and threw their tea into a harbor. 

“I think these protests are necessary for people to communicate their unhappiness,” said Eva Sanchez, a senior Spanish major from St. George. “It’s great not only seeing people exercising their rights to protest but seeing the support is empowering. The American people can’t forget that justice is for all.” 

Sanchez has parents who are both immigrants from Mexico. She said the protests bring society back to our human right’s frame of mind and have united people when society said social media had divided us.

“I believe every effort counts and [students] should make efforts to be vocal, but just as equally open their ears and hear different opinions,” Sanchez said.

Matthew Smith-Lahrman, social and behavioral sciences department head and sociology professor, said students should make sure they know what the protest is about, and if they agree with it, they should check to see if the protest will be peaceful so they know their chances of getting arrested.

“I think [protests] are a tried-and-true way for groups of people who feel like they don’t have a voice to have their voice heard,” Smith-Lahrman said. “Right now, after Republicans won the presidency and congress, they have the power structure. So, Democrats feel like they don’t have a voice in politics, and this is one way to make their voice heard.”

Because they are the group in power, Smith-Lahrman said Republicans don’t necessarily need protests to be heard because the lawmakers and the president are already on their side. However, he said anyone has the right to protest what they are passionate about.

“I don’t think [the protestors] are persuading anybody,” political science professor Joe Green said. “And when the protests turn violent, and when they are so constant, people at the margins who sway elections are turned off, but I have no way of knowing if I’m correct. That’s just what I think.”

Green said the argument of people being swayed by propaganda is invalid because people who vote based on emotion will be swayed one way or another by charisma. So propaganda is not a correct term to refer to protests by.

“If you want to say propaganda is the reason people are attending the protests, propaganda is the reason why people went to hear Mr. Trump and Mr. Obama, and you aren’t really explaining anything,” Green said. “It’s like a big circle.”

Green said what he thinks is going on now tends to be one tribe of people, who lost the election, out protesting, and the other tribe doesn’t like that the opposing group is out demonstrating. 

“I think tribe is a good term to use to describe these groups,” Green said. “Most of them aren’t there because they’ve analyzed policy issues and decided one side is wrong or right. They are there because it is ‘their side,’ and it’s like a sports team.”

President Trump has tweeted about protesters, but he has not come out to say they have persuaded his decisions in any matter so far. Although the protests have encouraged 127 companies, including Apple and Google, to file court papers against President Trump.

“Across the country, huge companies are hearing our voices and showing their support, even boycotting Trump in their own ways,” Covington said. “So, yes we are making a difference.”