Usage and Grammar

Q. A coworker insists “protests against” is never correct because “protests” normally implies someone is against something. I think it depends on context, because one can protest for, say, human rights. Is “protests against” ever correct? I wrote: “A farmer sleeps at a protest against the World Trade Organization in New Delhi.”

A. An inflexible approach to language rarely results in good prose. As it happens, the Latin roots of protest do not imply opposition (pro means “for” or “in favor of”), although English usage has evolved to favor that meaning. Your own counterexample features the noun protest, but you can point your colleague to Webster’s Third International Dictionary, whose definition of the verb protest includes the example “protesting against the morals of the time.”