People over property

Nobody cares about a couple broken windows, and everyone knows you don’t either

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McKenna Premus / Daily Collegian

By Zach Leach, Collegian Contributor

Students at the University of Massachusetts and residents of the neighboring area are painfully aware of the protests occurring on campus. Students continue to gather in protest of alleged sexual assault cases and the administration’s lack of appropriate response. This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last school this occurs at – and Americans are all too familiar with the negative reactions that arise after any protest.

On Sunday, Sept. 19, the first protest regarding sexual assault allegations at fraternities on campus occurred. It stayed mostly peaceful throughout the day until the UMass Police Department dispersed protestors around 2 p.m. Protestors returned that night and under the blanket of darkness, the protest quickly escalated to a riot. Fences were destroyed, windows were smashed and cars were flipped. Was this violence inherently necessary to putting an end to sexual assault? Probably not. However, the violence granted something incredibly important to the protestors: media presence.

The eyes of the country are on UMass, and that never would’ve been possible if that first demonstration did not get heated. The community’s response to these events, however, is incredibly unsettling. This violence gave onlookers a reason not to listen. It provided them all the ammunition they needed to shoot down any productive ideas the student body came up with. Instead of seeing a group of students demanding change, administration sees a group of criminals who want to break things.

This trend is not new and is not isolated to college campuses. Every time protests across the country escalate, people use it as an excuse to refute the points demonstrators are trying to make. Take Black Lives Matter protests, for example. When people argued against the protests, they seldom brought up the qualms they had with the root cause. Instead of refuting the ideas or the feelings of the protestors, they would talk about how a Target got looted. It was bigotry under the guise of “disdain of violence.” At the end of the day, “I don’t think anyone should be breaking windows!” sounds better than “I hate the idea of equal rights!”

I, of course, must take a second to acknowledge how lucky we are to live in a country that allows the freedom of assembly. I’m sure these discussions must sound miniscule to those who live in countries terrorized by tyrannical governments. This, however, is another unfair argument that is always brought up after protests. People claim that demonstrators are “abusing” their right to assemble. They claim that the protests were never necessary in the first place, as the affected persons have a better life in America than they would in third world countries. In my opinion, it is the responsibility of America to continue improving in order to increase the quality of life for every person living here. America will not be done progressing until true equal rights have been met for every citizen.

The protestors faced backlash from the online community. This was obviously outweighed by an outpouring of support, however there will always be people that find joy in swimming against the stream. These arguments never took on an outward display of being pro-sexual assault, but the naysayers usually found individual students to attack. It’s easier for a grown man to make fun of college students than to say that he supports the ever-growing rape culture in this country.

Many of the student protestors who faced backlash are queer. This is a trend when it comes to reactionaries and their feelings about protests. When attacking individual demonstrators, they will usually go after those that belong to marginalized groups. The same right-wing rhetoric is used every time: “These crimes were committed against patriotic Americans by BLM/Antifa/Communists!” It’s easier for these trolls to peg negative labels onto queer people, people of color and people belonging to other historically oppressed groups. More internet trolls will agree with them if they already have a reason to hate the person being attacked. These people can avoid acknowledging human rights if they dehumanize those who have been affected.

In light of the events that transpired at UMass recently, if you’re concerned about a fence and a few broken windows, it’s time to take a look at your priorities. In a perfect world, those in charge would always listen to peaceful protests, and would always take the steps needed to fix the issue. Unfortunately, we don’t live in such a world. Politicians don’t care about our picket signs. Administration is not listening to your chant. In situations like these, people get angry, and when they feel like nobody’s listening, they get even angrier. If you were watching coverage of BLM protest last summer and your first thought was, “It makes me so angry that they looted one location of a multiple-billion-dollar corporation,” you’re probably a bigot. If you decide to go online and attack college students instead of listening to the issues they continuously face or pause to consider the solutions they propose, you’re definitely a bigot. We all know you don’t actually care about those broken windows. Stop pretending you do.
Zach Leach can be reached at [email protected]