Is protesting a right?
The M-W dictionary states the definition of protesting as:
What civil disobedience is not:
Civil disobedience is not a rule departure, a legal protest, conscientious objection, radical protest, or revolutionary action. Though these are distinct from civil disobedience they can overlap with civil disobedience.
Now, on to the nitty gritty!
Protests seem to be a fundamental part of American society especially now more than ever. Looking back through the short history of the United States one can easily see many occasions where Americans came together to use their bodies as instruments of political, social, or economic change. The revolutionary war, the abolitionist movement, the whiskey rebellion, shays rebellion, the Civil War, the suffrage movement, prohibition, anti-communism movements, anti-Mccarthyism, Vietnam War protests, civil rights movement, the ELF 'eco-terrorist' protests of the 90's, occupy, and recently protests outside of the UN over Iranian nuclear issues.
In terms of philosophical debates this issue is a hot one. Many great thinkers have weighed in on the merits of legal protests and illegal ones. Briefly stated some say the consent of one to being governed invalidates any reasonable notion to conduct themselves illegally in which such actions could undermine the authority of the laws and cause chaos within the system of government that one exists. Others challenge whether one has really consented in the first place and if any valid form of active consent could ever exist or whether the consent is passive or tacit (or non-consent consent). Others look to the actions conducted under the banner of protesting and evaluate their legality. If the actions don't fall within acceptable legal terms then the actions can never be morally permissible. Criticisms of this call into question whether a legal examination of actions can ever be applied to protests considering protests usually aim to make actions generally thought of as illegal, legal. That is to say that in a government that criminalizes free speech protesting by speaking your mind couldn't be considered immoral simply because the action itself was illegal in the current framework of the legal system.
Now for my views on protesting.
Being someone who has given six years of his life to this nation by serving in the infantry and spending time in a combat zone, I consider any action that attempts to call into question the validity of a law or draw attention to a potentially unjust system as morally permissible. I take pride in the claim that actively participating in our political system, and in some cases using disruptive methods to change the political system, are wholly American. Regardless of the intentions of the founding statesman of this country for separating from England (that is an entirely different debate suitable in an entirely different thread all its own) they resorted to disruptive measures as a means to achieve independence from what they saw to be an oppressive governing body. This notion sits at the very core of what it means to be an American. If you don't like the way something is happening, SPEAK UP, and let your voice be heard. After all if you don't let your government know you aren't happy with how it's functioning and aren't consenting to its authority then you cannot claim to have any moral standing for breaking laws in the future.
Protests are supposed to be disruptive. Their purpose is to draw attention. A common trend in the linked thread was that there were more important things to be done and some (many) couldn't be bothered to find out why people were upset. This to me is a slap in the face. If you can't be bothered to take an interest in someone else's claims about potentially unjust actions existing within the government you function in you have no standing to complain about the government either publicly or privately. I've been to nations where you get shot for speaking your mind. Those places exist because people let them devolve into such a state. Public apathy and selfishness are two of the biggest reasons why oppressive laws are ever allowed to see the light of day.
This is an indictment of all those who saw fit to criticize those who took issue with an (as they saw it) unjust judicial decision. To those of you who ask what can students do (I'm looking at you Dominic) open a history book to the Kent State Shooting of 1970. The amount of indifference and downright contemptuous attitudes to those who chose to make their voice be heard and those who defended them was and is appalling.
I can vividly recall the number of people whose fingers and arms were cut off because insurgents were trying to keep them from voting and participating in their government in Iraq back in 2010. And you got pissed off because someone disrupted your class time while they were actively making their voice heard. Those who feel this way should be ashamed.
Protesting is absolutely a right. It is one of the most fundamental rights. Up there with the first ten.