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Protest or Civil Unrest?

A close examination on recent protests

Protestors+surround+a+police+cruiser+on+the+710+ramp
Protestors surround a police cruiser on the 710 ramp

Protestors surround a police cruiser on the 710 ramp

Youtube/V Michael

Youtube/V Michael

Protestors surround a police cruiser on the 710 ramp

Robert Camou, Intern

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It is becoming common knowledge that political decision making has been hijacked by private interests worldwide. This corruption becomes especially horrific in the United States’ representative democracy and is the antithesis of a government intended to be “of the people, by the people, and for the people”. The information revolution has raised platforms that nurture an updated public crying out to take a stand. It is inevitable that open source platforms with political media would have since been targeted, transforming freedom of information shared by the people and for the people to manipulative boosting of private agendas. Unfortunately, false information and emotionally charged opinions follow.  This is particularly true of the recent election decision, escalating to malevolence among the most adverse.

The issue of peaceful protest turned to civil unrest was evident in the Cal State LA anti-Trump walk-out.   

On Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016, student bodies on Los Angeles universities, including:  University of Southern California (USC) and University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) responded to the unforeseen election results with protests as did Cal State University, Los Angeles.  

The Cal State LA protest began as a walk-out, which was aimed to display dissatisfaction with the president elect.  This method however, isn’t the accurate form of protest for contesting a new president.  Walk-outs such as the East LA Blowouts of 1968 have been historically used to cause financial repercussions to grade schools who receive funding based on the number of students attending class.  The idea is that financial repercussions of students not attending class persuades administration to meet the protest demands.  Higher education such as at Cal State LA is optional and tuition is paid for in advance.  This makes the use of a walk-out to protest a new president an unacceptable attempt by protesters to gather more bodies for their movement, while for many students, an act of using group think to get out of class.  The walkout was not creating definite change.  

Fire alarms were pulled along the walk-out path, alerting public safety agencies to respond and wasting tax dollars. It also forced students, faculty, and staff out of class, despite their freedom to remain unsupportive of the protest.  California Penial Code 148.4 PC states that creating a false fire alarm is a criminal offense if it makes a false report of the fire willfully and maliciously.  It is evident that the Penial Code criteria is upheld, but the sole perpetrator wasn’t identified to condemn.  This additional disruption tactic should be frowned upon in this case as unnecessary breach of American liberty.  This lost support from some, seen as crossing the line from acceptable protest practices.  

After congregating in the Salazar Hall quad, protesters stormed the 10 Freeway near campus to make a stronger statement. They temporarily blocked westbound lanes as well as eastbound traffic until highway patrol dispersed the crowd.  This tactic was additional and unnecessary to the walk out.  It counteracted protest efforts in that many opinions were driven from support to dissatisfaction.  

The only justification for the walkout would be by the few high school students old enough to vote who attend the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHA), an adjunct high school to the Cal State LA campus created in 1997.  However, the number of high school students who attended the protest clearly comprised an insignificant proportion of the massive protest turnout.  The massive turnout was significantly abided by the walkout’s controversial tactics.  

Multiple sources about the incident from news media and private sources alike say the walk-out was not spearheaded by the adjunct high school, making a peaceful march through campus more fitting than a walkout or roadway blockade.    

While peaceful protesting is protected by the US Constitution, civil unrest is not. According to Karen Sternheimer in a W.W. Norton & Company Inc. independent publication, essentially, “civil unrest involves a disruption of the typical social order; it can involve a strike or protest, and it can be peaceful or involve violence.  Civil unrest often occurs when a group strives to gain attention for something they feel is unjust.”

Therefore, all actions of the protest can be classified as civil unrest.  Some may argue that this is the point, and this may be true, but unrest without a proposed ultimatum is nearly useless and not patriotic, it’s just whiney.  Boundaries were crossed that shouldn’t have to no avail.  If America wants direct democracy provisions, they need to propose legislation in addition to using the methods they currently possess like voting for California propositions, voting with the dollar, and personally being the change they want to see.

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Protest or Civil Unrest?