In the history of theory however, protest has almost always been a tricky issue. Protest for the most part, throws up the image of the mob; the ochlocracy, as Plato would put it. The very idea, for Plato, that the people might have some say in their own ruling would be anathema; indeed it is the people who need saving from themselves. Of course, this is not to confuse authority with authoritarianism - Plato would hold it self evident that people should obey implicitly those in power, and this would not appear strange to those living in Athens circa 400BC.
Machiavelli takes a similar if slightly more pragmatic approach to protest. The aim of the ruler, says Machiavelli, is to stay in power by any means necessary - to avoid the protesters wherever possible. And, contrary to normal assumptions about Machiavelli, that does sometimes mean capitulating to people's demands, even if they do go against the will of the Prince. Still, protest being allowed at hte whim of the ruler is not exactly protest as we would imagine it today.
It is only really with the advent of social contract theory and the beginnings of the development of the middle classes that philosophers really start to grapple with the issue of the right to protest. And even then, there are as many thinkers who oppose the ideas there are that embrace it. Obviously Locke and later Mill are famous advocates of the right to protest, but even then the issue may not be as clear cut as it seems - Locke's work, whilst clearly imbued with the importance of the individual and their right within society, was written with the aim of providing stability for the shaky political situation in Britain after the civil war. As the start of the section of Two Treatises entitled Of the Dissolution of Government says
"He that will with any clearness speak of the dissolution of government , ought, in the first place, to distinguish between the dissolution of society and the dissolution of government."
protest against the government instantly being made a separate issue to protest against fundamental liberties.
And then of course there is Rousseau, who's discussion of the General Will even at the time of the French Revolution shows a poor opinion of the idea of protest. Only the majority can be correct under the general will, and those who thought differently to the Will are obviously wrong, and should reconsider their viewpoint. Unrest and protest about this only seeks to further lessen the power of the general will
"It is therefore essential, if the general will is to be able to make itself known, that there should be no partial society in the state." (From The Social Contract.)
During the nineteenth century of course, all this begins to change and protest becomes enshrined as 'the lower classes' gain more power and political influence - Protest as a tool of people toward government becomes not just something for the desperate, or as the first step to revolution, but a crucial part of the democratic process, available to all. It goes to show how successful this idea has been in that we now (rightfully) kick up such a fuss when a peaceful protester is challenged over what they are doing. Not that long ago, they could simply have been killed, after all.
So is there really a sense in which we are regressing in terms of our right to protest? Fundamentally, probably not. But more and more small parts of this right are being chipped away. I very doubt they will ever remove the right completely, not at the general level at which protest is now enshrined. Even so, considering the long history of protest and authorities desire to suppress it, we must strive to keep the right to protest as complete as it possibly can be.