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Understanding the Distinctions Between Protesting, Demonstrating, and Violence: Analyzing a Notable Event in Florida

According to the United States Constitution, people can complain about the system and ask for reform. This right is upheld by the First Amendment protecting the right to assemble. It allows residents to participate in civic activities like protesting and demonstrating. However, the lines frequently become hazy when violent acts intrude on this constitutionally protected activity. A demonstration is a public statement of a group’s feelings for a cause, whereas a protest is a public declaration of opposition or disapproval. Contrarily, violence is characterized by harmful physical behaviors frequently meant to damage. It is essential to comprehend these distinctions to properly evaluate situations involving the open expression of political opposition (Gehan 29).

The year 2020 will be etched in the annals of American history for its widespread social unrest ignited by a tragic incident in Minneapolis, Minnesota. On May 25, 2020, an African American man named George Floyd was killed during an arrest after a white police officer, Derek Chauvin, knelt on Floyd’s neck for over nine minutes, an event caught in a harrowing video that went viral. The act caused widespread outrage, which generated unprecedented protests that reverberated throughout the country and even reached the international stage. George Floyd’s murder served as a sad reminder of the ongoing problem of racial injustice and police violence in America, inspiring millions to act. Floyd’s last words, “I can’t breathe,” became a rallying cry for change, demanding justice not just for Floyd but countless others who had lost their lives in similar incidents of racialized violence (“‘I Can’t Breathe’: The Refrain That Reignited a Movement”). Like the rest of the country, Florida was at the heart of this social storm. Cities across the state witnessed significant protest activity as people from diverse backgrounds united to express their collective outrage and grief. The incident thus marked a watershed moment in America’s modern civil rights movement, triggering a wave of protests and demonstrations that represented the single most significant movement in the country’s history (Tyner 13).

However, as seen in protests and demonstrations, the peaceful expression of dissent devolved into violence and riots. Although representing a small fraction of the protest activities, these incidents further intensified the nation’s ongoing discourse on race, policing, and civil rights. The tension between exercising First Amendment rights and maintaining public order surfaced, underscoring the complexity of societal issues. The ensuing months saw an ongoing struggle to balance these competing interests as Florida and the rest of the nation grappled with an era of social change propelled by the tragic death of George Floyd.

In Miami, the protests commenced in a calm and collected manner, with a central demand for justice in the case of George Floyd. The demonstration started at around 3 p.m. near the scenic Bayfront Park. However, the peaceful protest quickly escalated into a tumultuous situation as protesters expanded their range to I-95 (Sweeney and Roustan 10). This act subsequently caused an unexpected halt in traffic (Miami’s George Floyd Protest Turns Violent with Car Fires, Tear Gas, Looting 16). The serene daytime scene soon turned chaotic as night descended, and what had started as a peaceful protest morphed into rampant unrest. Public and private properties were subjected to damage, car fires broke out, and looting became rampant. In the face of such chaos, the authorities resorted to using tear gas to disperse the crowd and reinstate some semblance of order (Miami’s George Floyd Protest Turns Violent with Car Fires, Tear Gas, Looting 20). Moreover, a mandatory curfew was imposed to restore peace and order in the city. The situation starkly contrasted with the peaceful beginnings of the demonstration earlier in the day.

The events in Miami and elsewhere across Florida following the murder of George Floyd laid bare a complex tapestry of dissent, grief, and anger. As mentioned earlier, most of these events were marked by non-violent protests and peaceful demonstrations aimed at expressing a collective discontent with the chronic issue of police brutality, racial injustice, and inequality in America. However, it is crucial to observe that amid these predominantly peaceful assemblies, violence and destruction grabbed substantial media attention and, to a degree, clouded the broader narrative of the protests. In analyzing these events, it becomes vital to maintain the distinction between peaceful protests and isolated violent incidents. Using the lens of violence as the primary frame of reference for understanding the entire movement is too simplistic and unfair. A minority group’s choice to resort to violence should not overshadow the overwhelming majority’s decision to voice their grievances through non-violent means. It is crucial to avoid homogenizing the vast and diverse groups of individuals who participated in these protests, as it risks unfairly characterizing the broader movement.

A proper cultural and political response should also consider the distinction between peaceful protest and violent incidents. Policies that fail to address the underlying concerns can result from a lack of awareness of the nature of these protests. However, authorities should heed the majority’s message calling for systemic reform. Finally, it is essential to remember that the existence of violence in some protests does not make the concerns being protested any less critical. These demonstrations were centered on a call for justice and equality against institutional racism and police brutality in our society. Despite the regrettable instances of violence, the overarching plea for justice and societal change remains as valid and urgent as ever. Thus, while the violence cases cannot be ignored, they should be viewed in their proper context and not allowed to overshadow the broader fight for justice and equality (Silverstein 7).

The events that unfolded in Miami after George Floyd’s death illustrate the complex dynamic between peaceful protests, demonstrations, and violence. They underscore the necessity to distinguish between these categories clearly. Although marred by violence, the meetups in Miami predominantly represented the peaceful exercise of constitutionally protected rights, reflecting citizens’ deep-seated grievances and desire for transformative change. However, these instances of violence can detract from the movement’s core message and should be acknowledged as separate from the more significant peaceful protest. Understanding this distinction is critical in engaging in informed discussions about civic actions and movements for change.

“The Constitutionality of Preventing Ex-Felons from Voting Based on Outstanding Debts.”

The issue of restoring voting rights to ex-felons ignites a complex, heated debate that challenges the essence of our democratic society. The subject propels us to confront the pillars of justice, redemption, and equality in our society head-on. Are we prepared to sincerely rehabilitate these individuals, reintegrating them into our democratic process, or do we indefinitely negate their voting rights, casting a perpetual shadow of their past missteps over their civic life? The resilience of our democracy and the inclusivity of our core democratic principles are tested by this issue.

Florida provides a compelling example that fuels the national discourse on this contentious topic. In 2018, the citizens of Florida cast their votes in favor of Amendment 4. This vote cast was a constitutional amendment to restore voting rights to ex-felons. The passage of Amendment 4 was hailed as a significant stride toward addressing the democratic deficit spawned by felon disenfranchisement (Ross 7). Nevertheless, the jubilation was short-lived. The state legislature promptly passed a bill introducing a requirement for the newly won voting rights. These laws required ex-felons to settle all outstanding fines, fees, and restitution before regaining their voting rights. Critics saw this move as an underhanded attempt to circumvent the people’s will and establish a dangerous precedent. They argued that it erected an economic barrier to voting, evoking the historical poll tax used to disenfranchise poor and Black voters (Phylisha 12).

The legislation was also seen as a contradiction to the rehabilitative mission of the criminal justice system, which aims to reintegrate former convicts into society. It seemed to impose an enduring punishment on ex-felons, continuing their disenfranchisement even after serving their time (Ross 12). It is necessary to place it within a broader historical framework to contextualize the issue of ex-felons voting rights and financial barriers. Numerous examples of purposeful attempts to restrict particularly African Americans from exercising their right to vote have occurred throughout American history. The usage of poll taxes is a well-known example.

These taxes mandated that citizens pay a fee to vote. By doing so, it strategically targeted African Americans and poor individuals who could not afford to pay. This practice, along with other measures like literacy tests and grandfather clauses, was part of a broader system of laws designed to suppress the voting power of Black and poor white citizens. In response to the unjust nature of poll taxes, the United States enacted the 24th Amendment in 1964, which prohibited conditioning voting rights in federal elections on paying a poll tax or any other tax (Choi and Lu 10). This Amendment marked a significant step toward achieving voting rights for all, irrespective of their financial status (Phylisha 14).

Poll taxes were further ruled unlawful in all federal and state elections in the 1966 Supreme Court case Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections. This decision emphasized that one’s voting ability should not be a determining factor. This decision was based on the 24th Amendment and the Supreme Court’s decision in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections. This election determined whether Florida’s law was lawful. Modern poll taxes require former offenders to pay off their debts before being permitted to vote (Morse 2). This view agrees with Judge Robert Hinkle’s decision from the U.S. District Court, which ruled the statute unconstitutional in October 2019.

In my view, preserving fairness and universal suffrage in a democracy requires us to eschew restricting the fundamental right to vote based on an individual’s financial status. Associating the ability to vote with financial restitution could disproportionately affect individuals of lower socio-economic status, potentially leading to skewed political representation. We must chart a path forward that radically reshapes our approach to voting rights, particularly concerning ex-felons. This path includes removing legal barriers directly or indirectly connecting voting privileges to economic status. When we impose these financial hurdles, we imply that democratic participation can be bought or denied—a proposition that contravenes the principles of a just and equitable democracy.

By advocating for a fair democracy, I support ex-felons’ reinstatement into civic life. Once they have served their sentences and been released, they should be allowed to contribute to society. This contribution can be enhanced by restoring their right to vote casting. Decoupling financial restitution from voting rights does not excuse ex-felons from their obligations to settle their debts. Instead, it is crucial to acknowledge that these are distinct issues that should be addressed separately. Financial restitution pertains to the criminal justice system while voting rights speak to the civic privileges of individuals in a democratic society. Thus, it is crucial to separate these domains to uphold the integrity of our democracy.

Works Cited

“‘I Can’t Breathe’: The Refrain That Reignited a Movement.” Amnesty International, June 30, 2020, Accessed July 20, 2023.

“Miami’s George Floyd Protest Turns Violent with Car Fires, Tear Gas, Looting.”, CBS Miami, May 31, 2020, Accessed July 20, 2023.

Gehan Gunatilleke. Justifying Limitations on the Freedom of Expression. no. 1, Nov. 2020, pp. 91–108, Accessed July 20, 2023.

Morse, Michael. “The Future of Felon Disenfranchisement Reform: Evidence from the Campaign to Restore Voting Rights in Florida.” Cal. L. Rev. 109 (2021): 1143.

Phylisha Agbor-Taylor, and Phylisha Agbor-Taylor. “The Florida Poll Tax (1889-1941) •.”, January 25, 2022, Accessed July 20, 2023.

Ross, Janell. “Amendment 4 in Florida Restored Voting Rights to Felons. Now That’s Back in Doubt.” NBC News, NBC News, April 5. 2019, Accessed July 20, 2023.

Silverstein, Jason. “The Global Impact of George Floyd: How Black Lives Matter Protests Shaped Movements around the World.”, CBS News, June 4, 2021, Accessed July 20, 2023.

Sweeney, Dan, and Wayne K. Roustan. “George Floyd Protests in South Florida: 44 Arrested in Miami, Curfew Imposed.” Sun Sentinel, Sun Sentinel, May 31, 2020, Accessed July 20, 2023.

Tax, Modern-Day Poll, and Sarah Lu. “Implications of Jones v DeSantis”

Tyner, R. Black Lives Matter. Lerner Digital TM, 2021.


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