Violent Vs Peaceful Protests: Is There Really a Difference?

By Ellie Fletcher – International Affairs Editor

It is virtually impossible to find someone who did not hear about the events on the 6th of January 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. What people may not know is that on the 18th of September there was another far-right march in DC. This led me to explore how the second march may prove to get the Trump and far-right agendas further in Washington politics than the January 6th insurrection.

On January 6th, 2021, then President Donald J. Trump held a speech for his supporters in Washington DC, where he encouraged them to march on the Capitol. At the time, the certification of the election results was taking place with Vice-President Mike Pence in attendance. What happened once protestors arrived at the Capitol no one could have predicted. Protesters were able to breach Capitol security and make their way into the building. Chanting for Pence to be hanged, rioters reached the Senate floor. At this time other rioters were searching for Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Following the events of the day, many were calling rioters homegrown terrorists, and President Trump received his third impeachment; however, as we all now know, he was acquitted by the Senate, and the election results were still certified. Following the insurrection, the American people were left in shock. Many were questioning how a group of people might have been able to get past the present security, and gain access to the Capitol’s most esteemed legislative floors. There were also questions of what would happen next. Nevertheless, there was very little support for President Trump & his supporters; as one would expect, there were almost immediate calls for him to leave office before Joe Biden’s inauguration on the 20th of January 2021.

However, on the 18th of September 2021, around four to five hundred people peacefully protested in Washington DC. The ‘Justice for J6’ aimed to support those insurrectionists charged following the January 6th attacks. Whilst there was a large security presence, there were no major acts of violence; the protest ended with no issues at all.

“J6” Protesters peacefully demanded justice for those charged with insurrection in the violent protests earlier this years, ABC NEWS

The most recent protest could prove to have a more positive impact on DC politics for Trump’s supporters. This is because the American people as a whole are more inclined to support peaceful methods, and many Republicans would support Trump yet still blame him for the attack on ‘their democracy’ on January 6th 2021. Furthermore, established politicians may come forward in support of some of former President Trump’s policies creating a more bipartisan approach to modern politics that has not been seen in the last few years.

In summary, the different ways these two forms of protests have sparked responses demonstrate how, within democratic institutions, peaceful protests are more effective than ones that turn violent. As a whole, the media treat rioters and violent protestors as the enemy to the state and those who are using politics as an excuse to be destructive. Therefore, the public see them as an enemy meaning those elected officials who support them are at risk of losing the offices they hold. Overall, this highlights how peaceful demonstrations are far more effective than violent ones.

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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