Published on February 9th, 2018 | by Andrew Wright


Reassessing how we protest

Throughout history, politically inspired marches have been used as a powerful way to change things for the better, but in spite of popular belief, they often have had little direct effect. What is the true effectiveness of political demonstrations is a timeless question. Marches can make the participants feel like it is a good way to oppose wrongdoings, and they can definitely help raise awareness, but to be truly impactful marches have to have a strong clear message and a definitive outcome to actually become an impactful event.


A march will become pointless if it is fueled by hate or has far too many issues it wants to address. The success of a political demonstration is based on “profit” similarly to that of a business. A demonstration is no good if little change is actually brought to light. A good example of over addressing issues instead of sticking to the main goal and really strengthening the values of the march is the Women’s March. After reading the reasons published for the march many issues arose and many were left divided. The Women’s March, which most thought it was solely dedicated to the equality of women’s rights, began to get off track covering such things as  disability rights which, though important, tends to lead the target audience to get off track.


The actual areas where groups march is very important as well, and contributes  to how effective the march is at achieving its goals. For example, marches for issues that are mainly liberal and are physically marching through liberal areas will gain a lot of support but will have little direct effect even with mainstream news. Protesting in an area that is more against the issues the protesters are raising and will have a much larger effect because it will be confrontational and raise awareness. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington, as well as the Selma march had a profound effect because they marched on places that were either dramatically against them or on a place that was right next to the person that had the actual power to change the rules. Later it would have a larger effect on the people behind the scenes when Martin Luther King Jr. was invited to meet with the President and discuss the message behind the march.


Marches often show unity but are not the most viable way to seek change. A personal meeting with the actual people who can change the rules is far more important. The thousands of people for backup is important, yes, but why not have thousands of people contacting the rule maker, meeting and engaging with the person that can make a change.


If you think about it, we don’t know the majority of rallies and marches that happen, we mainly know of the marches and rallies that did something and the fact is that those are rarer than the  protests that don’t.


Unknown protests and whether or not they succeeded:


Cherokee Indian Resistance to Forced Relocation (1838)

Cherokees stood ground and didn’t prepare to give land to US government.

Resulted in US troops destroyed homes and property of Cherokees forcing them to move west and about 4,000 died to disease and starvation. – Unsuccessful


White Rose Resistance (1942-1943)

Distribution of pamphlets that philosophically challenged Nazi ideas

Resulted in the six head members of the group to be beheaded. -Unsuccessful


Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955-1956)

Montgomery’s black population refused to use public transportation.Resulted in Alabama court ruling racial segregation as unlawful, later repealed, but upheld by supreme court. – Successful


Kent State Demonstrations (1970)

Four days of protests and marching in hopes of getting president Nixon to stop the invasion of Cambodia and end Vietnam war.

Resulted in National Guard firing 67 rounds, killing four and injuring nine. Did spark additional protests but not immediate change or effects. – Unsuccessful


Tree Sitters of Pureora (1978)

Building of tree houses in the Pureora forest in New Zealand and refusing to leave them.

Resulted in government agreeing to permanently stop deforestation and the area became a park. – Successful


Demonstration against Invading Iraq (2003)

About 6 to 10 million people worldwide publicly protested the war. Resulted in invasion of Iraq and continuation of troops in Iraq to this day. – Unsuccessful


Wisconsin Teacher Strike (2011)

5 months of public protesting from 100,000 protesters gathered at Washington Capitol Building, to keep collective bargaining rights for teachers unions in Wisconsin. Resulted in the Wisconsin Budget Repair Bill, taking away collective bargaining rights, didn’t change and was not repealed. -Unsuccessful


Marches are still a good way to voice opinions and raise awareness about important issues, but they are not the most effective way, and without proper location, they do not have a high chance  of motivating change. Overall, a the better way to express issues is to address the conduit of change directly with a strong clear message rather than a jumble of mixed mumbo jumbo.

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