Two years ago, the murder of George Floyd sparked protests across America, gathering an estimated 15 million people into the streets during the summer of 2020. Since then, Americans of all political persuasions have taken to the streets to make their views known, on everything from mask mandates to abortion rights. But did protesting result in any real change? And looking back, where does that moment of collective outrage fit in the broader history of dissent in America?
This week, host Jane Coaston wants to know whether there is a “right” way to protest, and what makes a protest successful. To talk it through, she’s joined by the conservative writer David French of The Dispatch and the Times Opinion columnist Charles Blow. “I think a lot of times what the protest does is that it crystallizes and defines the parameters of morality on an issue,” Blow says. “It is a narrative-setting or -changing event.” But French argues that sometimes, in pursuit of raising awareness, protests can go too far. “If a group of people can menace a public official with enough ferocity that they can undermine the will of the people, you’re really beginning to undermine the notion of democracy itself,” he says.
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(A full transcript of the episode will be available midday on the Times website.)
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“The Argument” is produced by Phoebe Lett, Elisa Gutierrez and Vishakha Darbha. Edited by Alison Bruzek and Anabel Bacon. With original music by Isaac Jones and Pat McCusker. Mixing by Pat McCusker. Fact-checking by Kate Sinclair and Mary Marge Locker. Audience strategy by Shannon Busta with editorial support from Kristina Samulewski. Our executive producer is Irene Noguchi.