By Nicole Brewer


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — When protesters took to the streets of Philadelphia Thursday, many saw it as an exercise in freedom.

“Protesting is part of our country. It’s how America was born,” said Alex Babayev of Center City.

Others considered it more of an inconvenience. Leigh Goldwasser of Philadelphia told Eyewitness News, “I think people get annoyed because it disrupts traffic and it blocks the streets.”

Add violence or destruction to the mix and you can see why some are so turned off.

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“By its very nature, a protest is disruptive of status quo,” explained Beth Twiss Houting, the senior director of programs and services at the Pennsylvania Historical Society. She says protesters have made people uncomfortable, even angry throughout our nation’s history.

“When you take the Boston Tea Party, you have Sam Adams and he was seen as a hot head. When women marched on Washington in 1913, it was the fact it was women in the streets,” she explained.

And don’t forget the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.

“The people who were lauded as against America are now seen as heroes,” one demonstrator said.

So, are First Amendment marches largely successful? Houting says it often takes years of dedication and re-invention.

The first public protest for gay rights, for instance, was in 1965. But, it took another 50 years to legalize same sex marriage nationwide.

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“So there were these continuous, different strategies to keep putting the movement in the face of the public and that worked its way up to the change in the gay marriage statute,” Houting said.

Social change, Houting says, was largely brought about by protesters; people she says may ruffle some feathers, but often do a great deal of good.