Protesting is as American as apple pie and is defended under the Constitution of the United States right there in the First Amendment. The use of protests dates back to the founding of our country more than 200 years ago.

The founders weren't necessarily interested in forming a new nation independent of England, at least not at first. They were simply looking to right certain inequities and the use of protests – such as the various boycotts the colonists employed to show displeasure with what they considered to be unfair taxes – were a way to draw the Brits' attention to their demands.

Some protests are more successful than others. Those that use or threaten violent tactics –  Shays' Rebellion and the Whiskey Rebellion are early American examples – generally don't end well for the protesters. Peaceful protests such as the type employed during the civil rights movement tend to net greater results. The American people were able to contrast the peaceful protesters to the overwhelming and violent response from some in government and that helped to advance the cause by winning support for the protesters' message.

Peaceful protests are a legitimate and effective way to bring about change. They can be enlightening and provide opportunities for inclusion. Violent protests are divisive, destructive, and draw attention away from the objectives of the protesters.

Many in our area watched in horror as violent protests erupted recently in Boston and Providence and Brockton. But here in Greater New Bedford, a mostly peaceful band of protesters have been using their feet for more than a week now to spread the word. They have walked for miles throughout the area, talking about the issues they say unfairly impact our minority communities.

By remaining committed to peaceful protest they have not trampled on their message and have gained the respect of those who have watched them, this columnist among them.

Job well done.

Barry Richard is the host of The Barry Richard Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from noon to 3 p.m. Contact him at barry@wbsm.com and follow him on Twitter @BarryJRichard58. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app