This year, the world has been forced to bear witness to atrocity after atrocity: the Brexit vote, the summer's spate of police killings of Black men, and, of course, the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. But even among all that turmoil, the concept of constitutionally-protected protest has always been a beacon for Americans. These photos of protests in 2016 show just how much we had to fight against, and just how insane this year has been.
Could we have known how bad this year was going to get at the beginning of it? The primary season only kicked off in February 2016, but even the Republican party's circus-like cast of candidates seems like mere folly compared to the political climate we find ourselves in less than a year later. There were hints, however, of what was to come: armed militia men in Oregon and massive turnout at anti-Trump protests in Chicago foreshadowed the events to come before the ground even began to thaw. Who'd have thought we'd be facing an allegedly Russian-hacked election and the vice president-elect being called out by the cast of Hamilton?
Below are nine photos that show just how crazy this year got — and just how much we had to protest.
1. January: Armed Militia Members Occupy A Wildlife Refuge In Oregon
In January 2016, news broke of a group of armed ranchers occupying the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon to protest alleged government abuse of ranchers who refused to sell their land. The photo above depicts reported militia leader Ammon Bundy, a 40-year-old farmer who, along with his father, was convicted of arson near the wildlife refuge they then took over.
Bundy and six other protesters were arrested for the occupation, but were surprisingly acquitted of all charges in late October. The bizarre protest drew public criticism not only due to Bundy and his supporters use of weapons, but also based on a seemingly double standard in the police's peaceful treatment of the armed protesters, most of whom are presumably white.
2. March: Protesters Successfully Stop A Trump Rally In Chicago
On March 11, widespread protests from groups affiliated with then-Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, Black Lives Matter and other left-leaning organizations worked in tandem to disrupt Trump's speech at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
They succeeded: after disruption inside the event, a Trump campaign staffer told the crowd that the rally had been cancelled, which resulted in joy from protesters and anger from Trump supporters. Clashes erupted between protesters and supporters, and police arrested and charged four people, including former CBS News reporter Sopan Deb, who claimed he was thrown to the ground without warning and handcuffed.
3. May: French Citizens Protest Labor Reforms Across The Country
In May, French protesters took to the streets and their union boardrooms to protest new labor laws that will gut labor protections for many French citizens. One of the largest and most violent protests in recent French history, the union-led protests and labor strikes resulted in another wave of protests by police officers angry at anti-police violence carried out by labor activists. The well-organized police protest took place in 60 cities across France.
4. July: Initially-Peaceful Dallas Black Lives Matter Protest Turned Fatal
Following the officer-involved deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Black Lives Matter activists took to the streets across the country to protest the senseless killings of these two unarmed Black men and all those who came before.
What was initially quite a peaceful protest in Dallas turned deadly when a gunman opened fire on officers, killing five officers and injuring seven others and two civilians in the process. Perhaps the bloodiest week of the year, the events leading up to and after the Dallas protest police shooting remains one of the darkest times in an incredibly dark year.
5. August: Texas Students Protest Gun Law With... Dildos
College students protesting is fairly run-of-the mill. College students protesting campus open-carry laws with dildos and a catchy hashtag is another thing completely, and that's exactly what activists against a University of Texas at Austin did with their Cocks Not Glocks campaign.
Known as the "campus carry" law, the Texas law allows people to bring their concealed carry weapons with them in most public places in Texas, including university dorms and buildings. This ingenious protest attracted hundreds to the cause.
6. September: #CharlotteUprising Surges After Murder Of Keith Lamont Scott
In late September, my hometown, Charlotte, North Carolina, became the focus of a nationwide spotlight with the fatal officer-involved shooting of Keith Lamont Scott — a murder that sparked massive protests throughout the city for multiple days. The #CharlotteUprising spoke to a long history of police brutality in the Southern banking capital, and the organization, passion and dedication of the protesters brought national attention to the otherwise sleepy metropolis.
7. October: Dakota Access Pipeline Protesters Make Headlines
Though a steadily-increasing group of protesters had been gathered at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota for months, October marked the time when the story began gaining widespread national coverage. In late October, police arrested 141 water protectors who were physically blocking the path of the DAPL, and America finally began paying attention to the powerful, volatile protest by Native Americans and their environmentalist and anti-racist allies.
8. November: Trump's Election Sparks Massive Protests Nationwide
It's unlikely that anyone will ever forget the political climate of Nov. 9 — the day Trump shockingly beat Hillary Clinton to win the American presidency. People across the country chose to express their anger and fear on the streets, and one of the largest protests in recent memory took place in the wake of such a massive and upsetting defeat. Many more anti-Trump protests took place as the increasingly-horrifying list of Trump appointees rolls out, and we can all rest assured that people will turn out in the thousands to Trump's inauguration in January.
9. November: The Fight For $15 Goes National
The most turmoil-filled month since 9/11 ended on a high note with the National Day of Disruption, a nationwide protest organized by the Fight for $15 organization, who are working towards a $15 minimum wage and a union for America's most vulnerable workers. Activists in 340 cities joined Chicago airport workers to protest for their rights.
In a year as tumultuous as 2016, the mere thought that tens of thousands of people are willing to peacefully put their safety on the line for the causes they believe in is heartening. In the years to come under our new president, may we always use our anger in such meaningful ways.