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Is there a right way to protest?

The summer of 2020 was defined by global protests against police brutality and systemic racism following the police murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain, Tony McDade, and many other Black people. Although most these protests were largely peaceful, there were also instances of looting, property destruction, and violence in cities throughout the country. While violence is never the solution to our problems, some argue that breaking rules and disturbing the peace are the only ways to get the attention of those in power. As we wrestle with these ideas and study how protests have looked throughout history, we ask, “is there a ‘right’ way to protest?”


Policing Strategies To Keep Protests Peaceful

Speaking and Protesting in America

Additional resources to think about

Beyond Protests: 5 More Ways to Channel Anger Into Action To Fight Racism
This NPR article looks at actions other than protest that can fight racism.

If you take part in a protest | ACLU Southern California
This FAQ guide from the ACLU of Southern California outlines the rights of protestors based on the freedom of assembly promised by the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Poland Protests: Thousands demand change right now
This video from BBC MyWorld talks to young activists in Poland looking to change several laws on the books in their country and expand rights for women and LGBTQ+ people.

The Right Way to Protest
This article by Gloria Ladson-Billings analyzes the critiques of Colin Kaepernick's silent, kneeling protest during the national anthem before football games.

Digital activism and protest art in Myanmar
A short video from BBC MyWorld about how digital activism and social media is helping young people protest the military coup and how the government is attempting to shut down the internet to curb activism.

We Insist: 2020's Protest Music
[Content Warning: May contain language that may not be suitable for all audiences]
NPR Music's playlist "documenting the music inspired by the killing of George Floyd and the subsequent uprising against police brutality across America."


Who created this message?

  • What kind of “text” is it?
  • How similar or different is it to others of the same genre?
  • What are the various elements (building blocks) that make up the whole?


What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

  • What do you notice (about the way the message is constructed)? 
  • What’s the emotional appeal?
  • What makes it seem “real?”
  • What's the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices used?

How might different people understand this message differently from me?

  • How many other interpretations could there be?
  • How could we hear about them?
  • How can you explain the different responses?

What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

  • What type of person is the reader/watcher/listener invited to identify with?
  • What ideas or perspectives are left out?
  • How would you find what’s missing?
  • What judgments or statements are made about how we treat other people?


Why is this message being sent?

  • What's being sold in this message? What's being told? 
  • Who is served by or  benefits from the message
    – the public?
    – private interests?
    – individuals?
    – institutions?

5 Key Questions of Media Literacy used with permission from the Center for Media Literacy.
Copyright 2002-2021, Center for Media Literacy,


Is there a right way to protest?

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