The Merits of Civil Protest at UCSB


Teni Adedeji

The recent University of California, Santa Barbara career fair drew protesters from the Latinx community and its allies, as many stood holding signs in opposition to the presence of recruiters from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  You may be thinking: what are they demanding now? What is this going to achieve? Judgment may have clouded your eyes as you looked upon these protesters, believing them to be overzealous liberals who seem to get a kick off of promoting social justice. But maybe, those liberals aren’t the problem.

The actual problem lies in how people today view protests. While there certainly have been historical acts of objection, such as 1963s March on Washington, that paved the way to a tangible change — like the Civil Rights Act of 1964 — not all protests have to produce concrete results in order to be successful. In fact, not all protests have to be “successful.”
It doesn’t always have to be about an agenda. It doesn’t have to be about accomplishing something, or creating a dialogue. Sometimes, it can simply be about the pure emotion of the matter.

While making a display in front of the career fair might have been untimely, the students that stood there chanting and holding up bold signs — which spoke even louder than their voices — felt like they had no other choice. Especially in the midst of the Republican Party’s leading candidates Ted Cruz and Donald Trump talk of deporting 11 million illegal immigrants, and the recent deportations made in early 2016, the presence of U.S. Customs and Border Protection seemed extra-daunting to have at the center of campus.

However, the CBP recruitment booth was already situated inside the fair, and the odds that they were going to pack up their bags and leave because of the enraged individuals outside were quite low. So why were they out there? Between the signs that read “Stop The Raids” and “Undocumented Unafraid,” they were blatantly expressing their distaste for the conditions and treatment that CBP brings toward immigrants. CBP was recently beaten in a court case that claimed that the immigrants are subjected to harsh and inhumane environments. The Washington Post discusses details of the case and describes the deported people being kept “in crowded, dirty and freezing cells, deprived of sleep and denied basic hygiene items.”

The protest was an expression of emotion. Perhaps nothing was going to come out of it, but the gathered students, mostly members of the Latinx community, had every right to speak out against the injustice they perceived. One could witness their pain as they displayed a few bloody individuals on the floor to represent what happens to some people as they try to cross the border. To you, it might not matter. However, some of them could have family members, friends and even themselves at a strong risk of being put through this traumatic experience. They couldn’t just go through their day, and ignore the presence of CBP on their campus. It might not have been effective, but that doesn’t mean it was “unnecessary” or even “silly.”

This was a group of people that needed to be heard. We can go on and on and talk about how it might not have been the right time or the right place, but that seems to make us ignore the most important fact — the reality of inequity that we live in stirred up conflict inside these individuals to the point where they couldn’t keep silent. You don’t have to make a sign. You don’t have to join the rally. But it doesn’t take much to be compassionate and understanding.