Protests: are they the best tactic to get your voice heard?

Protests often attract large crowds.
Protests are seeing an increase in popularity in activist groups. Source: Fibonacci Blue (via Wikimedia Commons)
The George Floyd protests, the Boston Tea Party, the 2017 Women’s March. Protests have been a long-standing method of communication to get voices heard, but how successful are these protests in reality?

By Holly Hostettler-Davies | Contributor

The George Floyd protests, the Boston Tea Party, the 2017 Women’s March. Protests have been a long-standing method of communication for communities looking to get their voices heard. But how successful actually are these protests, and what might be a better tactic to getting our voices heard?

Let’s take a look at what was likely the largest single-day protest in the United States, and the largest global women’s rights protest in history – the 2017 Women’s March. The Women’s March was a worldwide protest held on the 21st January 2017, the day after President Donald Trump’s inauguration, prompted by the fact many people considered several of Trump’s statements as anti-women, or otherwise offensive to women.

According to The Lily, the Women’s March (where an estimated 3 to 5 million American women participated, joined by at least 216 marches in countries across the globe) “heralded a new global wave of women’s activism”. It even resulted in historical numbers of women worldwide running for office. 

It’s no doubt that this is a fine example of a protest being the best tactic to get your voice heard. But this success has not been translated in other protests, asking the question of whether protesting is the best tactic to get your voice heard?

For example, the Insulate Britain protest which has been calling for a national programme to ensure homes are insulted to be low energy by 2030, has caused major disruption in recent weeks. From blocking major roads such as the M1, M4 and M25, more than 50 protestors arrested, to viral videos showing them stopping people from reaching their loved ones in hospital, we really are forced to ask ourselves whether this is an appropriate and successful way of getting their voices heard. 

According to an article written by Open Democracy, “by protesting, we alter the agenda and start a debate”. That is exactly what Insulate Britain have done, and done well. But when other people are losing the ability to go to work, see their loved ones and live their lives, it’s probably time to step back and look at the alternatives. 

How about donating money to a charity supporting your cause? Talking to your local authority leaders? Even making protest art, music or poetry can make a big impact. 

As a society we tend to underestimate the impact that our voices have, we don’t think that people listen. We just have to find the right people to target. People are more likely to respond and respect what we’re saying when our way of saying it doesn’t stop them from going about their daily life. 

Of course, insulating Britain’s homes is important and impacts the whole country, so we need something powerful to make people listen and to get the message across to everyone, but perhaps considering more creative ways to make a stand would be more impactful. After all, to reach the goal then we need to work together, so creating this divide isn’t going to help reach the aim of ensuring homes are insulted to be low energy by 2030.

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