An Era of Protest?
By Maryam Sheikh
Now that the last decade is over, it is interesting to look back and reflect upon everything that has transpired. There have been many global, social, and political changes and events that have sparked responses from people worldwide. Moreover, there has been an increasing trend in activism, protest, and vocalization of opinions from individuals of different backgrounds.
In this article, I will outline some of the reasons why I believe protest is becoming a popular tool of expression, some notable protests, and the importance of advocacy in this day and age.
Firstly, I believe that social media and the popularization of technology has played a large role in this era of protest. The dissemination of information has undoubtedly become faster and thus news stories have become widely accessible within moments. Social media and digitization has allowed for faster communication and the ability to organize large groups of people in shorter amounts of time. In turn, there has been an increase in organized protests, marches, and other gatherings of people.
Just this past year, thousands of high school students mobilized after Doug Ford, Ontario’s Premier, made drastic changes to education by cutting funding, increasing class sizes, and enforcing mandatory e-learning. Students, frustrated about the changes, took to social media and started planning school walkouts to demonstrate their unhappiness and resistance to the Ford’s plans. The response? Immense coverage from various news outlets and information widespread to the public.
Additionally, this past September, over 15 000 people came together in downtown Toronto for a climate change rally. Youth and adults from across the city expressed their opinions on the government’s environmental policies through posters, chants, and signs. The protest racked up a lot of media coverage as well.
One may ask- what does this all mean? Is advocacy and protest really that important, and if so, why? Why should students, in particular, care? The answer is clear. Youth hold power- they have the capability to shape their societies and influence people in positions of power. Many of the decisions that are being made today will directly impact the incoming generation; therefore, youth of this generation are responsible to fight for the changes they wish to see. They have knowledge and communication at their fingertips to use to their advantage. When students and young people recognize the importance of their voices, they are able to join together and advocate for change.
Some argue that advocacy and protest are useless and do not lead to significant change. After all, marches in the United States have not led to changes in government policies, nor have protests altered climate conditions around the world. However, I believe that there is a flaw in this mindset. Protests are not meant to cause big changes overnight. Rather, they serve as conversation starters- they begin a series of steps to eventual change. Advocacy informs the public and helps raise awareness and it is only through awareness that action can be taken. After all, informed and educated people are empowered and impactful people.