The Real Goal of Political Protest

How recent Trump protests are about more than casting out the president-elect

Art by Emily Hill

Art by Emily Hill

I don’t think the purpose of political protest is always to affect change. I know this seems counterintuitive, but let me explain. Since Mr. Trump was elected president on Nov. 9, protests have been flaring up from New York to LA with the apparent goal of ousting the president-elect from his would-be office. However, if you take a closer look at the actual messages propagated at these protests, they reveal a slightly different goal.
I publically protested Trump’s election on Nov. 10, and as I approached the pulsating crowd on I-94 at Riverside Avenue, I did not hear chants of “Impeach Trump.” No one shouted, “Get out of the White House” or even “You’re Fired, Trump.” Instead, I heard affirmative chants of “Black lives matter,” “Refugees are welcome here,” and, my personal favorite, “Pussy grabs back.” And while I did see a few picket signs bearing slogans to the effect of “Donald Trump has got to go” and “We reject the president-elect,” most signs bore more positive slogans aimed at inclusion and mutual support—“Trans lives matter,” or “Si se puede,” for example.

I heard affirmative chants of “Black lives matter,” “Refugees are welcome here,” and, my personal favorite, “Pussy grabs back.”

I’ve seen a lot of scathing tweets and Facebook posts condemning protests like the one I participated in. From what I can deduce, people seem to denounce protests for one of two reasons:

1) It inconveniences them. This one is self-explanatory—people don’t like it when moral indignation extends their commute by 20 minutes.
2) They don’t think protesting will solve anything. This one seems a bit more predominant in the social media sphere—people simply don’t see the point of protesting if it won’t make immediate changes to the system.
I return to my main point: The purpose of political protest isn’t always to affect immediate change. As I clumsily attempted to climb a wooden divide to get into interstate I-94 in my skirt, tights and patent leather clogs, I realized I needed help. The words “hey could someone help me jump this thing” had barely left my mouth when roughly five people bent down to offer me a leg up.
That’s what I think political protest is about. It’s not about impeaching Trump right this second, it’s about helping people in need of support to climb walls, about making sure refugees know they’re “welcome here,” and marginalized people know they “matter.”
Most importantly, protest is about creating a message for like-minded individuals: You are not alone.