Activism is prominent on many college campuses this year, with the election, police violence and women's rights all at the forefront of the nation's mind. Everyone wants a peaceful protest, but free speech is often stifled by those who threaten incarceration against activists to intimidate them.
Emma Hobbs, justice studies senior, said students sometimes feel disempowered, but that it’s an incredible experience to be able to demonstrate their power through activism.
“I think it’s important to address equality in a way that demands attention," Hobbs said. "We’re not going to sit on the sidelines, we’re going to stand on the street and make you pay attention. We have to come from a place where we understand that just because laws exist, doesn’t mean they’re perfect."
As the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy gained rapid attention, hundreds of arrests have been made and police in riot gear have been deployed.
Celebrities like Willow and Jaden Smith, actress Susan Sarandon and actress Shailene Woodley, who was arrested after a protest on October 10, have started national conversations about the pipeline and its implications.
Woodley was live-streaming the protest on her Facebook account and believes this is the reason she was arrested, even after she followed orders by police to leave.
Woodley followed all of the rules: She protested peacefully, obeyed police and left the property when asked. And yet, she was still arrested and made a symbol of what will happen if you speak out.
We can learn that it's worth it to be willing to risk your reputation for a cause you believe in.
Woodley knew the risk that would come from associating herself with controversy. Not only did she accept that, she took it a step further and put herself into the situation by going to North Dakota to fight alongside Native Americans defending their water source.
With every controversial protest or campaign, many people stop to consider whether endorsing or condemning it will hurt or harm their reputation.
Many people shy away from associating themselves with movements that have been criticized for violence and destruction of property, often overlooking the issue at hand. It's a constant battle between standing up for what is right and contending with the backlash.
Junior education studies major Bridget Tallsalt, a full Navajo Native American, said it is very important to see celebrities like Woodley stand up and defend protestors in North Dakota because it brings attention to the cause.
"They realize that this fight is not just for the Native American people, but for all of humanity as a whole," she said. "It’s for all the children of future generations to come and still have access to the clean drinking water we have now. They see that this fight is for all of humanity."
She said there are no words to explain the feeling of not being able to drop everything as a full-time student and join other protesters in North Dakota.
"Many of us don’t have the funds or free will to get up and leave, but we make it our priority to spread awareness in the environment we are in everyday: the classrooms," Tallsalt said.
She said she believed it is important to be willing to go as far as risking arrest, like Woodley, to stand up for something.
"The protectors of North Dakota came in solidarity to have their voice heard and are being rewarded with violence," Tallsalt said. "They came in peace and the government showed up for war."
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Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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