The 16 Most Powerful Protests That Shaped News and Culture in 2016

As we bring this tumultuous 12 months to a close, we've got a reminder of the 16 most unforgettable protests and movements that shaped this year.
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December 13, 2016
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politics, protests, Black Lives Matter, 2016

There's no doubt that 2016 was a year filled with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Social media and grassroots organizing played a huge role in allowing us all to express our support, fears, optimism, concerns, excitement and flat out disdain for any and everything that was happening in the world. Using our voices to speak out about the things affecting our communities most was never more important than it has been this year and as we bring this tumultuous 12 months to a close, we've got a reminder of the 16 most unforgettable protests and movements that shaped this year.

Colin Kaepernick's National Anthem Protests

San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick certainly wasn't the first to use his professional sports platform to take a stand against social injustice, but he left his own mark on history with his decision to protest the national anthem by kneeling during games while the song was played. In addition to sending the message that he wasn't afraid to risk his livelihood to lend his influence to the fight for Black lives, his simple gesture also sparked a nationwide ripple effect across the sports world at all levels.

Dakota Access Pipeline Protests

Native Americans and people of all races from around the world joined forces in North Dakota when the government-funded building of an oil pipeline over sacred Native American ground that threatened to disrupt the land's environmental and economic livelihood. Protests erupted in cities across the country to show support for the residents taking a stand. At the height of tensions, protestors in North Dakota were physically harmed when U.S. military forces and law enforcement aggressively invaded the grounds. As a result of the protests, the Obama Administration announced in early December that "alternative routes" were being considered.

Police Killing Of Philando Castile

Diamond Reynolds' horrific Facebook Live video footage of the moments after a Minnesota police officer opened fire on her fiancé Philando Castile as the couple sat in a car with her 4-year-old daughter during a routine traffic stop served as a chilling reminder that the police war on Black lives is far from over. At the time of the shooting, the chilling incident marked the second time a police officer was caught on tape killing an unarmed Black man in less than 24 hours, resulting in some of the years' most powerful protests.

Police Killing of Alton Sterling

The sight of Alton Sterling's 15-year-old son crying uncontrollably during a televised family press conference held in the days following his senseless killing tugged at the hearts of the nation. When Sterling was fatally shot by police while selling CDs outside of a local convenience store, the New Orleans community took to the streets.

Raped at Spelman

The rape of a Spelman College student who spoke out to tell her story anonymously on Twitter sent a shockwave across social media. In addition to aiming to heighten the conversation around rape culture on college campuses, the incident also called for a detailed look at the alleged mishandling of reported rape cases by school administration. The #RapedAtSpelman hashtag subsequently gave birth to a movement that saw people around the country speaking out in support of the young woman and those like her who suffered through similarly scarring sexual assault attacks.

The #BankBlack Movement

2016 was a year that saw many in the African-American community seek to take their protests for racial equality to the next level. It has become a widespread believe that the only way to truly bring about change in the way Black lives are regarded in America is to strengthen the Black economy and for many, the #BankBlack movement was the first step. This year, thousands of African-Americans across the country took made a conscious effort to open bank accounts and one of the dozens of Black-owned banks in the country and the #BankBlack social media movement helped identify exactly where to go.

Protests Against Donald Trump for President

Although Trump inevitably went on to win the presidency, the protests against him landing in the White House will undoubtedly go down in history. From the multiple social media hashtags calling attention to the countless disgraceful statements made by Trump while campaigning, to the tens of thousands who took to the streets on a daily basis in the immediate weeks following his election victory, the voices of people across the country were heard loud and clear like never before.

Pretoria Natural Hair Protest

The South Africa community and Black women from across the globe joined in to show support after it was revealed that administrators at the school's prestigious Pretoria High School for Girls had been telling the teens to "fix" their natural hair. The protest reignited the conversation about acceptance and racially charged standards set for school-aged kids.

Bernie Sanders Supporters

Bernie Sanders may not have gone on to win the Democratic nomination for president, but his impact on the election was truly undeniable. Not only did he have the unwavering support of the millennials and people of color, he also convinced many that he had the qualifications to shake up the left wing base with his radical liberalist ideals and make a real difference in the way things are done in Washington.

Birth of a Nation Film Boycott

The resurfacing of rape allegations brought against 'Birth of A Nation' star and creator Nate Parker when he was in college did much to derail the film's reception once it hit theaters. The discussion controversial led to many in and outside of Hollywood speaking out adamantly both for and against Parker during a crucial promotion period for the film, which was initially one of the most anticipated of 2016. Many vowed to boycott the film in its' entirety.

Dallas Police Shooting

The mass shooting that deliberately targeted law enforcement during a protest in Dallas against the police killings of Philando Castile and Alton Sterling rocked the nation. The fatal incident left a total of 5 police officers, the shooter and 1 civilian dead, while at least 11 others were treated for non life-threatening injuries. Protests of solidarity from police forces across the country erupted in the days following the incident. The shooting marked the height of tensions between civilians and police communities across the country in 2016, as a result of continued police brutality incidents involving African-Americans.

The Flint Water Crisis

The idea of not having access to clean water as people living in the richest country in the world was an idea lost on many, before the residents of Flint, Michigan found themselves in that very spot. Although the crisis actually began in 2014, a state of emergency for Flint was not declared until early 2016. Sketchy mishandling of contaminated water sources by the local government and a severe mismanagement of funding led to one of the biggest, most shameful crisis this country has ever been responsible for. Celebrities, public figures and people around the country joined forces to raise funds to provide Flint residents with clean drinking water.

Police Protests of Beyonce Following Super Bowl Halftime Performance

Beyonce's socially-conscious, extra woke, unapologetically Black performance of her single "Formation" during the 2016 Super Bowl halftime performance spoke volumes about where she stands on the war against Black lives. As a result, Bey faced a slew of backlash from high profile public figures and even had multiple police forces threaten to boycott security for her tour.

Safety Pin Protest

Much of the country was left feeling defeated and helpless in the days following Donald Trump's 2016 election victory, but when people who somehow felt they were less of a target began wearing safety pins on their clothes to let people of color know that their vicinity was a "safe space," it didn't go over too well. The Safety Pin Protest was short lived and replaced with much-needed discussion about why a Trump presidency is something that stands to affect everyone.

Campus Protests

2016 also saw a massive increase in activism among college students demanding change at their universities. Most of the protests from students called for things like an increase in diversity in administration and on campus, the implementation of a stronger support system for people of color pursuing higher education and amendments to historical campus policies or declarations that are openly racist.

Hillary Clinton for President Movement

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stood to make history again as the first woman to be elected President of the United States and millions across the country took part in demonstrations urging voters to make sure her much-less-qualified opponent did not emerge victorious. Black women voters in particular came out in impressive numbers for Clinton, with a whopping 94% of Black women who voted casting their ballots in favor of the former First Lady.

This story was originally seen on Essence.com: 16 Powerful Protests That Shaped News And Culture In 2016Other things from Essence.com that may make you reflect: