10 Silent Protests That Made Major Noise

September 12, 2016  |  
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In a time where so much turmoil and anger has ripped communities across the nation apart, we wanted to pay tribute to those who have utilized nonviolent, silent protests to make their voices heard. From the civil rights protests of the 1960s to Colin Kaepernick’s quiet defiance, we salute those who aren’t afraid to take a stand for what they believe in and understand that hate and violence aren’t the way.

Colin Kaepernick’s National Anthem Protest

Colin Kaepernick is the latest athlete to truly leverage his star power to raise awareness about racial and social issues facing our nation. During NFL preseason, Kaepernick chose to sit and then kneel during the National Anthem. While some criticized Kaepernick’s action, chastising him for a lack of respect, Kaepernick eloquently explained his actions, saying, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

Tommie Smith and John Carlos

During the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, American track and field stars Tommie Smith and John Carlos mounted the podium to receive their medals. As the Star-Spangled Banner began to play, Smith and Carlos bowed their heads and raised their fists as a nod to the Black Power Movement. Smith explained that, “If I win, I am American, not a Black American. But if I did something bad, then they would say I am a Negro. We are Black and we are proud of being Black. Black America will understand what we did tonight.” While the pair suffered much criticism upon their return to the states, their actions would later be applauded and honored.

Photo Credit: WENN

Photo Credit: WENN

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

While the effectiveness of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In protests can be debated, there is no denying the spirit of their actions was exceptionally clear and positive. Hoping to capitalize on their notoriety and the press surrounding their marriage, Lennon and Ono called the media to their room at the Amsterdam Hilton. There they staged a bed-in to support world peace. Surrounded by signs that read “bed peace” and “hair peace,” the couple spoke about their hopes for a happier, more peaceful world. Perhaps their protests didn’t have the reach they hoped, but the bed-ins are noted as one of pop culture’s most memorable protests.

March on Washington

Martin Luther King Jr. led thousands of Americans to the nation’s capital for the March on Washington for one of the largest and most successful nonviolent protests in history. Championing civil rights, the March on Washington culminated in King’s “I Have A Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in front of more than 250,000 protesters. The march was just one of many nonviolent protests that King led, but this was one of the most visible demonstrations and a true turning point in the civil rights movement.

“I Can’t Breathe”

LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Garnett and a host of other NBA players quietly, yet powerfully expressed their anger over the death of Eric Gardner by donning T-shirts with the phrase, “I Can’t Breathe” on them. Nets players Jarrett Jack further explained their silent statement: “When you believe in something and you stand up for something, you believe in whatever comes with it as well. That’s the thing people knew going into it and we understood it. If (a fine) comes our way, it does. If not, that’s it. Some things are worth more than the monetary value of it, so to speak. I applaud the guys who did it. We were on the same page as far as how we felt. We felt strongly about it and just wanted to go out there and take a stance.” Ultimately, none of the players were fined.

Montgomery Bus Boycott

What a difference a simple act of resistance can make. On December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks refused to abide by the policy of racial segregation on buses in the south. After being arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white person, Rosa Parks became a symbol of the civil rights movement and her small action jump-started the Montgomery Bus Boycott.



Greensboro Sit-Ins

On February 1, 1960, four men sat down at a Woolworth lunch counter in North Carolina. When they were denied service at the “white’s only” counter, the men refused to leave and stayed until closing. The next day, the men, joined by other protesters, returned to that lunch counter and staged another sit-in. Hundreds would ultimately join in this effective, nonviolent protest and this would become a powerful weapon in the arsenal of the civil rights movement. The results were damning for stores with segregationist policies. Lost profits and negative publicity made many opt for desegregation.

Gandhi Hunger Strikes

Mahatma Gandhi undertook 17 fasts throughout his life to bring awareness to the plight of his fellow Indians. Devoted to the idea of nonviolence, Gandhi embraced this form of opposition to make his voice heard.

Delano Grape Strike

Beginning in September 1965, the Delano Grape Strike lasted more than five years and sought to provide farmers with wages on par with the federal minimum wage. Though the strike began with the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee, it wasn’t long before other groups and important activists including the National Farmworkers Association and Cesar Chavez joined the cause. Through consumer boycotts, marches, demonstrations and other nonviolent resistance, the strike not only brought national attention to the struggles of farmers, but also culminated in a collective bargaining agreement that helped thousands of farm workers.

Bob Marley’s Smile Jamaica Concert

The Smile Jamaica Concert might not be thought of as a protest in the traditional sense of the word, but it was Bob Marley’s actions that made this one of the most stunning displays of nonviolent resistance. Just two days after being shot in his home, Bob Marley took to the stage at Smile Jamaica in front of 80,000 attendees to perform. When asked about his willingness to take the stage despite his injuries, Marley said,”The people who are trying to make this world worse aren’t taking a day off. How can I?” A true inspiration.

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