Protests are breaking out all over the U.S. these days. For frustrated Americans, taking part in a peaceful demonstration can help restore a sense of personal control. And protesting works. Not always, and sometimes not to the degree that people wish, but history is full of examples of how public movements have brought real and positive change.
If you're thinking of joining a protest, it helps to understand just what the personal repercussions might be. Not that you should always let fear rule out over conscience. But consider these unexpected costs of activism, so you know exactly what you're getting yourself into.
1. You can jeopardize your career
You have every right to protest whatever you want. It's what makes America, and many other civilized countries, great. However, just because it's your right doesn't mean your current or future employer will look favorably upon your decision to speak out. Employers may not agree with your political stance.
Even if they do, they may worry clients or the public will look down on it. And with smartphones and social media a staple of society, chances are, you'll be caught on camera. If you are in any kind of position that is public-facing, be it a teacher, a lawyer, or a public relations manager, you could be on shaky ground.
Almost all U.S. states are "at-will employment" states, meaning employers can terminate you for any reason and without warning. Unless there are state laws, or company or union policies in place that specifically protect you, you could be fired for engaging in lawful political activity. (See also: 4 Financial Reasons to Keep Your Political Views Private)
2. You may need to take time off work
Protesting is usually not convenient. It is frequently centered around an event or day that has meaning, and that means it will often fall on a work day. For those of us who have jobs that are flexible with hours — or allow vacation and personal days for such things — no problem.
But you may not have that luxury. Can you afford to take a day off without pay? Can you afford for that to become two, three, or four days without pay if the protest continues to gain momentum? Some people maintain that the monetary cost is nothing compared to the moral cost of staying silent, but remember, that noble reason will not fly with the bank whe