When Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and former political advisor to President Bush, Karl Rove, came to speak at the University of Mary Washington, they caused more than a stir.
Talks of protests by several student groups on campus led many to be concerned about what was going to take place as they made their way to these events.
Cuccinelli was interrupted by protesters, who overwhelmingly populated the room, holding signs and shouting responses to each statement in his speech.
During Rove’s speech, the protesters overwhelmed Fredericksburg residents, and students trying to make a point by barricading some patrons from the door.
These overly vocal protesters caused many people on the right to be shocked and angered, a result the protesters probably hoped for.
Unfortunately, it did not leave many people talking about the issues, which is the point of a protest.
It did, however, leave a bad taste in the audience’s mouths as they felt that these students had acted in a disrespectful way towards Cuccinelli and Rove.
So this leads us to question: is this form of protest constitutional and is it effective?
Although these students are practicing their freedom of speech by protesting, are they not also “abridging” the speech of the person, such as Cuccinelli, who is being interrupted by them?
The First Amendment states, “Congress shall make no law… prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech.” This doesn’t stop people from infringing on each other’s free speech, but it is hypocritical to be doing so when the your First Amendment right is the basis for your protest.
On the other hand, when questioning the effectiveness of the protests, the purpose of protesting must be kept in mind.
A protest is a demonstration to publicly show disapproval and bring forth change.
When talking to the attending patrons after they encountered the protesters at Rove’s speech, I did not find them talking about the issues being protested.
Instead, I found them saying how annoying the protesters were, that they were heckled and felt encroached by those students.
This begs the question: did the students fulfill the purpose of the protest?
No matter what conclusion is drawn from these questions, whether constitutional or not, whether effective or not, progress is being made because this is being talked about.
These conversations are important.
They cause us to question our behaviors and to think and talk about the Constitution.
This, not interrupting and heckling, is the true cause of change and results.
Progress was not achieved through these protests.