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Guest Opinion

The right to protest peacefully is fundamental


In recent weeks, at universities across the country, peaceful demonstrators have been arrested while protesting events in the Middle East. In some parts of the country, the public has begun to attack the very act of protest demonstrations.

The League of Women Voters condemns violence and civil rights violations at peaceful demonstrations. We also condemn antisemitism, discrimination, harassment, Islamophobia and racism of all forms.

However, peaceful protest is a constitutional right deeply rooted in American democracy and must be respected.

The League of Women Voters of the United States recently issued a statement about these protests:

“At the League of Women Voters, our goal is to ensure that every person can make their voices heard — in the streets and at the polls. We firmly believe that, like voting, peaceful protest is a constitutional right deeply rooted in American democracy. Both voting and protest are powerful tools for driving change.

“For over 100 years, the League has supported the First Amendment right of free speech. Even before the League was formally organized, brave women suffragists staged protests demanding something radical at that time — the right to vote. We strive to model their dedication and advocacy through protests that preserve the dignity and respect of all.

“Protests are an effective tool for amplifying the voices of the people and inspiring action. When we use the act of protest together with the power of our vote, we can create meaningful and lasting change.”

The danger to our democracy comes when the strong feelings of protesters and of those sent to protect the rights of non-protesters escalate into physical violence. Keeping the peace does not require silencing the protesters, and protesting should never create chaos.

All Americans should speak out when they see the need for change. Peacefully.

And after speaking out, they should vote for the change they wish to see.

Jean Weston is the president of the League of Women Voters of Bucks County, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to providing voter education and services and advocating for issues. The league envisions a democracy where every person has the desire, the right, the knowledge and the confidence to participate.

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