Pizza and Politics: An Examination of Protests in the U.S.

On Wednesday, April 7, 2021 the Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service held its Pizza and Politics event focusing on protests in America. Students engaged with the Leavitt Center’s staff on the history of protests across the United States. 

The discussion covered a range of topics, including the psychology of protests, differences between types of public engagements, historical movements, current events and student-led protests.

Executive council member Karaline Taylor and fellow Bryan Kessie began the event by discussing the psychology of protests and how a peaceful protest can escalate into a riot. They then defined the different types of public engagement which are protests, demonstrations and riots.

 The purpose of the beginning of the presentation was to lead students into answering the question, “Who should be responsible for determining whether a protest is passive or aggressive?”

“I almost feel like that’s like playing God. In reality, nobody can determine what is ‘passive’ or ‘aggressive,’ especially if we are talking about different people’s life experiences when it comes to things such as different races, different religions and stuff like that,” Anja Hayes, a student in the audience, said. “I think it is inappropriate for someone who identifies in a specific category to place judgment on those who may reside in different identifications.” 

The presentation reviewed historically important movements such as sit-ins for racial equality, the suffrage movement for women’s rights, and the stonewall riots for LGBTQ rights. The presenters related each movement to its modern counterpart, like Black Lives Matter, Womens’ March and Pride

Taylor and Kessie asked the audience if they had ever participated in any of the modern movements.

“I have always been a part of the [LGBTQ] movement for a very long time and I’m from Southern Utah so I’ve seen it grow from no visibility to a lot of visibility,” said Cynthia Hawk, a senior at SUU. “I think for myself and others we really became more aware of the movement when there was the whole shooting in 2016. I think that [The Orlando Shooting]  is an eye opener that this community still faces violence to this day.” 

The closing remarks of the presentation reviewed how students at SUU can assemble under the guidelines of the university. The university encourages students to engage in debate and in the free exchange of ideas. SUU’s guidelines can be found in the university’s Policy and Procedures.

 The next Pizza and Politics event will occur April 21 at noon. Those interested can find more information on the Leavitt Center’s website.


Story and photo by: Danielle Meuret