3 common misconceptions about last weekend’s protests, and how to combat them

Thousands of Connecticut citizens marched on the State Capitol to protest Trump's stance on women's rights during the Women's March on Hartford, CT: in solidarity with Washington on Saturday, Jan. 21, 2016. (Amar Batra/The Daily Campus)

It is the responsibility of the informed to speak up so that being uninformed does not become the norm.

Four years of protests began with a brilliant bang on Saturday, which means normally Constitution-fetishizing conservatives will take their monthly plunge into hypocrisy, calling people who are demonstrating for basic human decency either crybabies, violent or plain wrong. So, to start this column, I will simply reaffirm that the First Amendment exists, and is so obviously entrenched in both human nature and the American fiber that even if Trump and his supporters malign it and its practice, it stays solid, intact and powerful as always.

Here are a few of the most rampant lies pertaining to the recent protests that I’ve seen on social media or sparred with in person. In these interactions, deference is meaningless, so be bold. Truth forever triumphs over alternative facts.

1. “Trump’s comments mean nothing, it’s all talk. People are just protesting because he isn’t politically correct and the people he offends are too sensitive. They’re a bunch of children upset they didn’t get their way.”

As recently as Dec. 8, a town representative from Greenwich, Connecticut “allegedly pinched a female town worker in the groin” because of, what else, an argument over political correctness. Hartford Courant contributor Christine Palm said it best when she noted that this incident “has taken the lid off the box of ignorance that conflates human decency with ‘political correctness.’” What was it that your president said again? Oh yeah: “I’ve gotta use some tic tacs, just in case I start kissing her…And when you’re a star they let you do it… Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.”

Obviously, words aren’t just words, especially when you’re running for president. Trump surrogates lack the poetry and facility to understand the symbolic power of the presidency to render words into active weapons. Furthermore, when Trump has been accused by more than 10 women of committing exactly what he said he did on the infamous Access Hollywood tape – that is, sexual assault – perhaps thinking critically about the situation could be of benefit. Rape culture is part and parcel to rape, and we have a sitting president who flaunts this notion, and allegedly violates it. In other words, the anger of the marching women and their allies is warranted, and remember, Hell hath no fury like a nation scorned (or grabbed without permission).

2. “Martin Luther King Jr. would have hated these rioters. What happened to peaceful protests? These people are lawless, and don’t they see they’re hurting their own cause?”

Martin Luther King Jr. has become a mantle white people pass around whenever they want to prove they’re not racist. They point out his tactics and say he would never condone the violence or vandalism of certain modern day demonstrations. In reality, King viewed riots as “The language of the unheard.”

I would like to correct the record so this great man is no longer used as a pawn to further white supremacy and privilege. Here are King’s irrefutable thoughts from a 1967 speech on the issue: “Urban riots are a special form of violence. They are not insurrections. The rioters are not seeking to seize territory or to attain control of institutions. They are mainly intended to shock the white community…The looting which is their principal feature serves many functions…Often the Negro does not even want what he takes; he wants the experience of taking…The policymakers of the white society have caused the darkness; they create discrimination; they structured slums; and they perpetuate unemployment, ignorance and poverty. It is incontestable and deplorable that Negroes have committed crimes; but they are derivative crimes. They are born of the greater crimes of the white society.”

Our historically American aggressions, realized in the worst physical sense, have been attached to debates where the difference between right and wrong can be blurred with rhetoric. Yesterday, I watched as mirthful Trumpists celebrated a video compilation of black protesters being mowed over by cars while attempting to disrupt traffic. Today, I saw elected representatives saying that the Boston Tea Party was different from the more unruly protests of our time. This time, the rage comes from black people being brutally murdered by the police or from a president elected with three million fewer votes than his opponent – taxation without representation, akin to the Sons of Liberty. Looting is a call to attention, and has been in America’s past. George Washington disagreed with the Tea Party, illustrating the aversion of the powers that be to this sort of endeavor, but its effectiveness cannot be denied.

If you are more concerned with a commute or an ATM than you are with Ferguson, the mass incarceration of black and brown bodies in this country or with the disgusting, bigoted behavior/rhetoric/proposed legislation of the new president, you are the problem.

3. “The Women’s March is a waste of time. It’s made up of snowflakes and feminists, and the rioting and violence that has happened because of all this is shameful.”

There were a few instances of destruction of property on Inauguration Day, like a Bank of America window, and a Nazi (Richard Spencer) was punched in the face, but the Women’s movement and its rallies have been nonviolent. In D.C., there were no arrests despite more than 500,000 people marching. The attempt to discredit these protests by saying they come from a small fraction of the population that is without moral ground to stand on is especially egregious, seeing as more than 2.5 million people in all seven continents marched in solidarity against Trump and what he represents, a number that dwarfs the amount of people who showed up to Trump’s inauguration.

The people will be heard. Your petty gripes will not slow our truth.


Sten Spinella is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at sten.spinella@uconn.edu.