Do small scale protests really change anything?

By Nicole Garcia

Protests, no matter how small, are still seen by people because they’re strategically planned. Whether it’s a hundred people or just a dozen who see the protest, they will be given food for thought. Even though the numbers behind the movement might not be in the thousands, small scale protests are important because they might resonate with people who know about the cause, or understand the impact it could have. They directly affect the people who come into contact with them, and even if these spectators are only mentioning the protest in conversation, they are still talking about it and the thought is still in their heads.

Once while walking down Regent Street I could hear a man yelling loudly, campaigning against fur. He was amongst a group of six other people handing out leaflets and holding a very disturbing skinned, felt fox, but it didn’t really matter. Whether it’s because they felt bad for the group or were genuinely interested, passers-by took the leaflets and stared at the disfigured fox, listening to what they were chanting. I spent the rest of the day thinking of whether or not I’d ever bought or worn fur, and then I thought about the leather boots I was wearing and the wool sweater I had on. Their words had clearly had some effect on me, when I would have not considered fur or leather in my clothes before.

On the 6th of March, environmental activist and campaign group, People and Planet Cardiff has claimed responsibility for spray painting the words ‘divest’ and ‘fossil fuel free’ onto the pillars inside the main building. They also staged a sit-in in front of the Vice Chancellor’s office and two of the campaigners went on hunger strike on the 9th of March. As of July 2017, Cardiff University had invested £10 million pounds into the fossil fuel industry — five times more than two years prior in 2015. The University responded by saying they had already planned on divesting from companies that make more than 10% of their revenues from the coal industry. However for the members of Cardiff People and Planet, this isn’t a permanent solution, which means we will probably see more acts of protest coming from them in the following months.

While these actions may seem futile, small protests have sparked bigger movements worldwide. Colin Kaepernick knelt during the American national anthem at an NFL game in protest of police brutality towards black people. Soon, players in high school basketball games nationwide started doing the same. In 1989 an unidentified man stood in front of a line of tanks in Tiananmen Square in protest of police violence against peaceful protesters in China. His photograph would later circulate around media outlets worldwide, directing the world’s attention to the governmental corruption that the Chinese people were victims of.

Protesting does not need to be violent or include thousands of people. The man campaigning against fur, Kaepernick, the unknown Tank Man, and Cardiff People and Planet have more than a cause — they have the public’s attention. Throngs of people aren’t needed when there are others watching. When issues that might otherwise go undiscussed come to light, those in charge are forced to do something because it isn’t just one person or a group of six anymore. Their disregard for people’s concerns, in this case their disregard for the environment, has been exposed. Unless acted upon and changed for the better, this will reflect on the view others have of the University.

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