2

In the dictionary,

[intransitive, transitive] to say or do something to show that you disagree with or disapprove of something, especially publicly

protest (about/against/at something)

Students took to the streets to protest against the decision.

protest something

(North American English) They fully intend to protest the decision.

My question is:

Does "to protest somebody" make sense?

Can we say?

We are protesting my boss.

We are protesting the president.

5

Yes, it makes sense.

Definition of protest
transitive verb
3 : to make a statement or gesture in objection to • protested the abuses of human rights
(M-W)

The definition does not exclude people.

So for example, if people are marching in front of the White House holding signs with messages against the president, then it would make sense if a marcher said

We are protesting the president.

Here are some relevant examples I found online (emphasis mine):

2

According to Cambridge Dictionary, protest means

to say something forcefully or complain about something
to show that you disagree with something by standing somewhere, shouting, carrying signs, etc.

In British English, the first meaning is generally transitive, and the direct object is a statement of fact, for example:

He has always protested his innocence
He protested that he had been treated unfairly

In British English, the second meaning is generally intransitive and it is normal to use a preposition like about or against to describe in general terms what somebody is complaining about.

He protested that the war in Iraq was a waste of money and manpower. -direct object is a statement of fact
He protested about the war in Iraq - preposition- general description
He protested against the war in Iraq - preposition- general description

Clearly, plenty of people regard Trump as a general description of something to complain about, but Trump could never be regarded as a statement of fact.

So, in British English, you could say

He protested that Trump was a racist

but you can't say

He protested Trump

Usage in the United States is somewhat different. Looking at the entry in Merriam-Webster, you will find this definition for the transitive form:

to make a statement or gesture in objection
He protested the abuses of human rights

Again, we have the idea of making a statement, but if you look at the associated example, you will see that the object is not a statement but a description in general terms of the issue: something that in British English would have to be linked by about.

  • Personally, I think it's dumb to say "protest the president" but it has become a pretty common thing to hear, at least in the US. When someone says "I'm protesting Trump", they're opposed to his existence, not complaining about some specific policy or complaining to him. – ColleenV Mar 14 '17 at 12:07
  • @ColleenV: so Trump is seen as the issue.... – JavaLatte Mar 14 '17 at 12:19
  • Sure, you could see it that way, but the distinction is pretty fine for someone learning English and I think it's confusing to say "No, protest somebody doesn't make sense." when "protest Trump" is being used all over the place lately. Maybe you could elaborate on the difference between protesting to and protesting about with some examples. – ColleenV Mar 14 '17 at 12:25

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