9 Powerful Ways to Protest as a College Student

By Julia Dunn on January 23, 2017

When we think about protesting, we normally think of the classic means of protest people have used for decades: strikes, walkouts, picket lines and marches big and small. We think about chanting and yelling in unison with our community and shutting down streets, occupying buildings, and creating cardboard signs with powerful messages of equality, inclusivity, and advocacy for human rights.

But as many of us know, this is not the only way to make your voice heard and to contribute to the movement for human rights.

Women’s March on Washington D.C., 1/21/17
Image via Wikipedia Commons

Marches and highly active forms of protest are not necessarily inclusive of those with physical and mental disabilities, undocumented individuals, or people of color who may feel a higher sense of fear when entering areas where a lot of police are present.

January 20 was a highly charged day for millions who feel betrayed at best when reconciling that the new U.S. president counteracts the human rights we have fought so hard to obtain in the first place — that the White House website no longer has a LGBT rights, disability, or climate change page is alarming enough for an action on day 1.

Are you ready to protest this injustice? Here are nine ways to do so that don’t only revolve around physically demanding marches:

1. March/strike

If you feel that marching or participating in a strike suits you, by all means, rally with your community! Create some cardboard signs with powerful statements on them, and make sure to bring plenty of water with you if you plan on chanting throughout the march. Even if you’re not “loud,” entering charged environments like marches and strikes can easily dehydrate you.

2. Write

For many, writing is a huge medium for protest, be it in poetry, essay, fiction, or any other type of creative writing. Write to state officials about issues that matter to you. Write a letter to your parents who are afraid of losing their insurance, or to your undocumented friends who are afraid for their safety in the U.S.

Language is powerful!

3. Start dialogue

Silence is violence — and white silence is even worse. Talk to friends about what’s going on in politics and human rights and welcome exchanges of dialogue. However, remember that freedom of speech does not exempt you from being held accountable for your statements.

If your beliefs impinge upon the rights of others or actively hurt a community, it’s likely problematic, and you’ll want to deconstruct your thinking to find out why you believe what you believe. Remember never to deny the lived experiences of others or invalidate their reality. Share resources with others around you.

4. Educate yourself and others

Teach workshops on diversity and inclusion, how to effect public policy, and how to lobby local decision-makers at the state capital. Take the time to read articles on Everyday Feminism to deconstruct your own internalized beliefs about marginalized groups and learn about implicit bias. Education is power.

5. Sleep in, eat, take care of your body and mind

Activism takes a serious toll on your body. The amount of energy you expel physically and mentally during public actions amounts to more than you might think. When marching and participating in demonstrations, you must stay aware of your environment and be able to adapt to changing conditions.

Self-care is an often overlooked yet important form of protest. Know that your existence is resistance, and part of preserving your existence involves supplying your body with what it needs: food, water, calmness, and relaxation.

6. Be selective about the media you consume

You’ve probably heard the news about “fake news.” It’s out there. Remain critical of your news sources and don’t spread click-bait news if you can help it.

Image via Pixabay.com

On another note, also be selective about how much social media you consume. On high-traffic social media days such as the inauguration, Facebook and Twitter news feeds were 99 percent focused on the election, and this is draining and even triggering for people to absorb. Make sure not to spend too much time on social media especially before bed, as it is healing to disconnect for a while.

7. Express love

Love is the most powerful force against injustice, bigotry, and hatred anywhere and anytime. IF you love someone, make it clear. Celebrate your love (romantic or not), for this is a radical form of protest against any force.

8. Make art

Protest by painting your feelings post-inauguration day. Protest by sculpting or embroidering or drawing. Filling the world with art is a hugely powerful way to channel anxious or angry energy into something constructive and symbolic.

9. Think

What you focus on expands. Think about how you’ll rally with your peers to create social change.

We may be disillusioned at best given the results of the 2016 election, but we must recognize we are aligned for a revolution. We must strategize and disrupt the plans of leaders who are not aligned with the people’s best interest. For any amount of discrimination we experience in this country, we must counteract it with peace and positivity.

We must act on our belief that women matter, that black lives matter, that all people of color matter, that queer and trans folks matter, that folks with disabilities matter, that low-income people matter, that undocumented people matter, and that our country can recover. The way we move forward in this political time will define our progress.

Although not everybody can stand on the front lines of huge protests, anyone can find their own meaningful way to protest.

By Julia Dunn

Uloop Writer
I am a graduate student in the Creative Writing MFA program at San Jose State University. I specialize in creative nonfiction writing and poetry, as well as composition studies.

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