Updated: Mar 15
In the last few years it seems that, at any given moment, somewhere in the world there is a protest going on. People protesting for equal rights, protesting for freedom, democracy and fairness. Protests are a powerful way for people to make a permanent change for the better and sometimes, when enough people are involved, they work, they create real change. A change in society, a change in their country, a change in the world.
Power To The People
People have been protesting for hundreds of years. Most protests are against those in power, governments and authorities, but many times protests are against an idea, a group or belief system. In the year 2020 there were protests against racial inequality, police brutality, societal lockdowns due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the need to wear masks, animal exploitation, undemocratic elections and much much more. Some of these protests became mass movements and created actual change, the protests against police brutality in the USA lead to a defund the police movement that did cause funding to be reduced to police departments.
How To Effectively Protest
There are seven different types of protest that, through history, have worked to change society, they are hunger strikes, work to rule, sit ins, marches, boycotts, petitions and use of social media. Sometimes these methods have to be used in combination, for example using a petition to raise awareness and gain support then organising a march, to create a powerful movement that cannot be ignored by those in power.
A hunger strike is just what it sounds like; you refuse to eat until your demands have been met. I'm not suggesting that anyone should do this, I think there are ways to protest that also work that will not harm you personally. Hunger strikes are a technique that is often used in prison, inmates have so few liberties and no freedom so not eating is something that they can control. If people take this to the extreme medical intervention will be used to feed people, however, some people have died from taking this kind of action. As effective as is can be, don't do it, do not put yourself at risk of harm to protest anything, you are too important.
Work To Rule
This type of protest works because you are only doing what you are told, even though the effect of it is detrimental. In a work to rule protest workers will do exactly what is stated in their work contracts and nothing more. They arrive at work on time, leave on time, take all designated breaks; they will refuse to carry anything that is too heavy or carry out a task that involves using equipment that isn't made for the task or is substandard. Working like this slows down productivity and highlights the extra work that workers do on a regular basis, but do not get paid for. This type of protest is less effective for kids to use as children and teens are always being made to follow rules. If you started a work to rule protest adults would think it was fantastic.
A sit in protest involves occupying a space, peacefully, and refusing to move until you feel that you have achieved your aim, or the police carry you out, whichever happens first. A sit in can involve any number of people, one person could sit in a barbers chair to protest the price of a hair cut, if they wanted to. It makes the business or service unusable as customers that would pay cannot get in to use the service or buy the goods that they want. This not only draws attention to the protest, but also stops the business from making any money. However, they could also refuse to use that barber and encourage other people not to go there either, a boycott.
A boycott is where people refuse to use a business, product or service until the providers of the product or service make changes; vegans not using products made by companies that sell in China and are tested on animals could be considered a boycott. It is being reported that the UK may boycott the 2022 Olympic games in Beijing due to the terrible human rights abuses being carried out in China. Boycotts of clothing designers has caused a shift away from using animal fur in their clothing. For a boycott to be effective it needs to involve a mass movement. If you and I decide to stop shopping in one particular store because we feel that their staff aren't treated fairly they won't notice. But, if you can get more people involved, hundreds, thousands of people, they will notice, it works even better if you can get the story in the media and social media can be incredibly useful for this.
"Forest Green Rovers’ stadium could be renamed ‘KEVIN’ after fans hijack social media poll in protest against Innocent Smoothies" TalkSport.com
All around the world millions of people go to social media to find out what is going on in the world. These millions of people are all using the same apps and websites, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, Pintrest; then they share what they've found on Whatsapp and other messaging apps. Local news becomes global news in seconds. This means that injustices and cruelty cannot be hidden the way it used to be, it also means that people can be brought together easily and without authorities being able to stop them. The other powerful aspect of social media is that it enables people to organise huge events very quickly and easily, meaning that thousands of people can come together to make their feelings felt; make their voices heard.
Marches are what most people think of when they imagine a protest. A protest march, or a protest demonstration is where a large number of people, with a common goal or complaint, gather together to show their opposition to something. The demonstration doesn't have to be mobile, people don't have to physically be marching through the streets, they can gather in an area and protest there. Trafalgar Square in London, UK, is a popular place for protests with tens of protests being held there every year. Protests of this kind will involve chanting from the crowd and placards that give the message of the protest.
Petitions used to be written documents, signed by a lot of people, that asked the government to make a change. Now a petition doesn't have to be physical and most petitions are conducted online. People add their name to the list of others that feel the same way that they do. The power of a petition is that it doesn't take a lot of time to write, or type, your name and it is a powerful way to show how many people are affected or concerned about an issue. Petitions can collect millions of names now, in the past, when petitions were printed, it would have been impossible to speak to that many people and present them with the document. Social media is a great way to draw attention to a petition, especially when links can be added to the message, allowing people to go straight to the online petition and add their name.
Protesting doesn't have to be about changing the world, it could be changing something that is important to you and your local community, something that would make a real difference to your life and those around you. If there is something that you feel passionate about and you believe that you can take action to make things better, get together with others that feel the same way that you do and get a movement going.