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Protest Movement That Changed America

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The groups who fought the early battle for recognition and treatment of AIDS formed a protest movement similar to those involved in the fight for women’s suffrage, and for civil rights. The consensus of authors like Herbert Spires and Mirko Grmek is that a strong, organized civil disobedience protest movement was necessary to combat the general apathy towards AIDS from both the government and from the medical community. However, there was some disagreement about this civil disobedience from people like John W Toomey. Additionally, the protest movement itself was divided into two factions, gay men on one side, and women and minorities on the other. Each had disparate experiences with that AIDS community, and each disagreed on the focus of the movement. In the end, both factions’ utilization of mainstream protest methods, along with civil disobedience, had a major effect on AIDS research and lead to life-saving changes in the treatment of individuals living with AIDS. In July of 1981, a rare form of cancer was killing gay men in New York and California.

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Protests have long been an essential part of American life, employed to draw attention to critical issues, events, and injustices. Ranging from peaceful marches to powerful acts of civil disobedience, protests can be found in nearly every political and social movement of the past century from the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s to anti-war protests of the 2000s. Today, protests remain relevant—providing essential ways to speak out on political issues and injustices. In the past five years, movements including Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, the Tea Party, and opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline, commonly known as NoDAPL, have used protests as a way to make their voices heard. By learning about our right to protest and the historic protests of the past, we can gain insight into how the freedom to speak out and challenge popular viewpoints has and will continue to shape American political life. When reporting on the role of public television in 1967, the Carnegie Commission advocated for public programming that captured the voices and protests of ordinary citizens, writing that: "[Public television] should be a forum for debate and controversy. It should bring into the home meetings, now generally untelevised, where major public decisions are hammered out, and occasions where people of the community express their hopes, their protests, their enthusiasm, and their will. It should provide a voice for groups in the community that may otherwise be unheard." Reflecting this early commitment to capturing debates and protests, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) holds a rich array of films, documentaries, radio interviews, and news programs highlighting the protests and movements that have shaped American policy and opinion. From the contentious 1960s and 1970s to the current day, the AAPB preserves the voices of concerned citizens captured through the vivid mediums of radio and television.The First Amendment of the United States Constitution provides protection for many acts of protest by protecting the right to conduct a peaceful public assembly and the right to free speech. Our right to free speech and assembly encompasses a wide scope of protest activities ranging from flag burning to picketing. In the United States, individuals and groups that wish to protest can make their voices heard in public spaces like parks and sidewalks. Some cities, however, require local permits to protest and have local ordinances determining the size, volume, and location of protesters

Throughout history, this permit system has been misused by some local governments in order to block unpopular protests.

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One of the strong points that came out of the drafting process was the separation between classes. It was those in the lower and middle socio economic class that would get drafted, with anyone in the higher class having a greater ability to avoid any unwanted participation in the matter. The fact that people started to take part in demonstrations and openly protest any drafting and involvement of the United States in the war, created even more attention towards the Vietnam Conflict. People started to question the reasons and their views began to change

As they found out more of the details, the opposition grew and by April of 1968, the amount of supporters of the war was 40 per cent. In October of 1969, only 32 per cent of American citizens supported the war (Robbins 28). The steady decline shows that people became educated about the reasons and the toll that was taking away lives of both Untied States soldiers and Vietnamese fighters for freedom, as well as a great number of civilians. Students were another great part of the protest to the Vietnam War. Very many colleges and universities, as well as teachers and professors, took part in active demonstrations, demanding the American government to withdraw the troops. The gradual separation between the citizens and the American government began to emerge. People started finding out that justifications were false and fabricated. The explanation that the communist Vietnam would spread its influence around, causing other countries to join with the communists was exaggerated. These fears came mostly from example of the Soviet Union and the fall of communism there (Hall 118).

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In the final analysis, as is readily apparent from that lecture and the previous examples, drawn from the Civil Rights History Project collection, the movement completely transformed the lives of young activists. Many of them went on to great success as lawyers, professors, politicians, and leaders of their own communities and other social justice movements. They joined the struggle to not only shape their own futures, but to also open the possibilities of a more just world for the generations that came behind them.

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Gilbert, Marc. The Vietnam War on Campus: other voices, more distant drums. Westport, United States: Greenwood Publishing Group, 2001. Print.

Hall, Di Mitchell. The Vietnam War: Second Edition. Harlow, United Kingdom: Pearson Education, 2007. Print.

Hallin, Daniel. The Uncensored War: The Media and Vietnam. Los Angeles, United States: University of California Press, 1989. Print

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