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Commentary: Peaceful protests are preferable to violent ones

Civil rights activist Martin Luther King Jr., whose life we celebrated on Monday, once said, "Nonviolence is a powerful and just weapon, which cuts without wounding and ennobles the man who wields it. It is a sword that heals."

King is known for his fight for equality, liberty and justice for all. He, along with other influential people like Gandhi and Rosa Parks, made a statement about the issues with nonviolence. Peace marches and speeches are two examples of the ways in which they made their statements.

Similarly, in South Korea, millions of citizens are using nonviolent methods of protest to help make a statement.

The South Korean government has recently been under attack, as many of President Park Geun-hye’s corrupt scandals are being uncovered.

When the leader of a country is exposed as a corrupt person, the citizens of the country have the right to be infuriated. It is then up to the people to decide what they are going to do with their anger. Will it be used to pursue violence, or will it be channeled to a benevolent energy to protest peacefully?

The people of South Korea chose to take the "high road" as they protest President Park and her corrupt scandals.

An article on described the clever ways Koreans are protesting Park. On Christmas Eve, for example, many people dressed in Santa costumes and passed out gifts to children. As they did so, the protesters chanted, "Gifts to children and handcuffs to Park!" This strategy demonstrates what it means to be democratic: protesting against a corrupt government in a nonviolent manner.

Dec. 30 marked the 10th consecutive Saturday in which these protests have taken place. In total, about 10 million people have attended these rallies.

A Time magazine article reported that "the demonstrators are a cross-section of Korean society: there are trade unionists, students, representatives of parties of the left and right, feminist groups and families."

During these protests, famous artists perform songs, everyone has the opportunity to make a speech, and celebrities voice their opinions.

The South Korean citizens are getting the best out of each other as they seemingly craft something as serious as a protest into a festivity. This is why, out of the 10 million people who have attended these rallies, not one has been arrested.

On the other side of the world, a similar situation is unfolding in United States. However, our approach has been less peaceful than the South Koreans’.

When Donald Trump won the presidential election in November, the very unexpected win came as a shock to many Americans, some of whom became furious about the results.

Protests took place across the country, but there is a difference between these protests and those done in South Korea.

Protests began during the campaign. Anti-Trump protesters would show up at his rallies and pick fights with Trump supporters. The Anti-Trump supporter would then be kicked out of the rally.

Similarly, Trump supporters have been violent towards his opponents. Trump supporters would harass women and well as people of color.

Many people joined the "Not My President" demonstrations, chanting "We reject the president-elect" and "Love Trumps hate."

According to the Washington Post, things became violent in Portland, Ore., where a rally turned into a riot in which protesters threw rocks at police officials, stores were vandalized, car windows were smashed and fires were set. Trump supporters and protesters alike engaged in some of this violence, and more than a hundred people were arrested.

Different cities experienced similar outbreaks of violence. At one point, an American flag was burned.

It might have been better if the protesters followed the advice of leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Gandhi. Violence is not the answer. A peaceful protest is more effective than a violent one.

Elise Yu is a freshman at Williamsville East High School.


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