Often protesters are made fun of, being told that simply standing or marching in a street while holding signs isn’t enough. That is where protest critics couldn’t be more wrong. Personally, I have attended many protests. Most recently, the second annual Women’s March. I’ve noticed that three things always happen: people counter-protest, petitions are sent around and there are always people that pass by and show some sign of support. These three things alone prove why protesting matters.
Many protests have political connotations, making them the perfect place to pass around petitions, gaining many more signatures than they would have without protests. For those who pass by and react, whether or not they support the protest at hand, prove that word is spread about the issue being protested. Even the people that simply walk by will at least think about it, completing the ultimate goal of the protest- to raise awareness.
For those that tell protesters that they won’t make a difference, look at the textbooks. Realize that some of the most influential people in the last two centuries that are talked about every day in classrooms and conversation all over the world were protesters. Martin Luther King Jr., a name almost everyone in the United States knows, was one of the largest influences of the Civil Rights Movement. And he protested endlessly. He led a citywide boycott of the Montgomery Bus System after many people of color were denied the right to sit in whichever seat they wanted. After “382 days of walking to work, harassment, violence and intimidation for Montgomery’s African-American community”, Montgomery lifted laws on segregation in places of public transportation. He is the perfect example of how protesters can and do make a difference.
The Women’s March 2017 was the largest march in history, taking place in all seven continents. I was lucky enough to partake in the one in 2017, and the one in 2018. Something I remember after the first Women’s March was reading many online posts talking about how it was pointless, and did nothing to actually change anything. I was baffled as to why women would not be supporting an event that is all about supporting women. Isn’t it in their best interest? I knew in my mind that just the march alone will go down in history with its size. I also knew that it would spark a political revolution, which it clearly did with the #MeToo movement spreading later that year. So it wasn’t all for nothing.
But still, why would women openly insult this event? I didn’t feel disdain for these women, I was just confused. I still wonder about this today, but an article has been etched in my memory that perfectly represents what I would like to say to every one of the women who doesn’t support the Women’s March, or protesters in general.
So to those who still don’t believe protesters make a difference, who think protesting is silly in general, and who hiss at the protesters in the street: you’re wrong. The whole point of protesting is to raise awareness, so even just holding up a sign in the street is doing something. Political revolutions have sparked from protests and have been the starting points for some of the most historically important people in the United States and the world. Protests and boycotts were at the heart of the American Civil Rights Movement, which was instrumental to improving the lives of people of color in the United States. If you ever get stopped at a protest, just ask the person: why are you so afraid of change? Because they certainly aren’t stopping you simply because they are annoyed. Keep practicing what you preach, protesters. What you do matters.
Photo: Joy C. Lundberg