What is the History of Mass Protests in the United States?

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Mass protests have long been part of American culture, even before there was a United States. When the United States formed, it was recognized that the First Amendment protect citizens rights to protest. In many cases, these mass movements based on organized and sometimes not so organized protests have led to major social and political change. This is not always the case but these movements have been both a positive and sometimes destructive part of US history.

Early Mass Protests

The largest protests in US history have all occurred since 2016; however, early in US history mass protests were vital to social and political change. Class discontent has often been a main reason for mass movements and protests. Culpeper's Rebellion was one of the first large-scale, at least based on the population at the time, movements in Carolina Colony in 1677. This was led by John Culpeper in a protest movement and armed rebellion against the British authorities over the issue of taxes in the Navigation Act. At the time, the British had begun to create a series of duties on cotton and other exports from their American colonies, such as tobacco exports. The movement was ultimately suppressed but for a time the rebellion and protests worked in getting the British to exempt taxes, which was the main reason why the rebellion started. John Culpeper even successfully defended himself while he was on trial. John Culpeper was able to lead the movement and this helped him to become a prominent citizen in what is today North Carolina, where ultimately his descendants continued to even be influential in North Carolina politics long after the establishment of the United States. The theme of taxes continued to be a strong one in North America and what ultimately sparked the Revolutionary War. Among different acts, the Townshend Acts, which led to a series of taxes, created tensions that ultimately led to the Boston Tea Party in 1773 and subsequent American Revolution. The main disputes centered on whether Parliament had the right to tax in the Colonies rather than local representatives. The Sons of Liberty, an initially secret organization, led by Samuel Adams, opposed to taxation without representation, helped lead a series of movements that led to coordinated anti-tax protests and disturbances, including the Boston Tea Party. It is arguable that the events leading to the American Revolution, led by the Sons of Liberty and other related groups, could be considered the first coordinate acts of disobedience and protests across what became the United States.

Later Developments

Modern Period Protests

Summary

References