A lot of people are under the impression that a protest doesn’t accomplish as much as one might hope. This shouldn’t be too big of a surprise given that so many people avoid voting for the same reason: we’re only one person. How can we possibly make a difference?
Let’s take a look at the Women’s March for example. Millions stormed the streets to protest Trump’s new legislation. Though, despite the overwhelming numbers, Trump went ahead and cancelled funding to Planned Parenthood anyway. It’s possible to perceive the Women’s March as a failure but this would be incorrect. Women throughout Washington protested Trump’s reign and while he may have ignored their voices, millions gathered in support of one another and became more politically aware. According to Harvard University, this is exactly what makes protests a success.
While it may be hard to believe, there have been several studies and articles published detailing just how effective a protest can actually be. An analysis from Harvard believes that protests work in the sense that they get people politically engaged. While it may be difficult to know for sure if a protest worked, the amount of people involved gets previously aloof people to take interest in something they want to see changed.
Though, a protest on its own isn’t enough to convince people. You need to put in the work, which was suggested by Professor Abhinav Gupta in 2015. According to a Bustle article, “Do Political Protests Actually Change Anything?” Gupta suggested that people become educated on their protest’s agendas and on their government’s policies in order to prove that they know what they’re talking about.
Like anything, though, there are problems with protests. When street protests get out of hand or lead to violence, things are less likely to change. But when protests take to the streets in a peaceful collaboration, change is more likely to come about or show politicians that people are upset and want to see things change.
A 2014 Atlantic article titled “Why Street Protests Don’t Work” mentioned how no obvious leaders and a mishmash of people equated zero change in some cases. A 2009 study by Anders Colding-Jørgensen was also mentioned. He created an experimental group protesting the demolition of the Stork Fountain. Two weeks later 27,000 people joined the group but nothing else was done. His experiment drew attention to just how easy it was to create a social media group even if nothing came of it.
Additionally, the Bustle article also discussed how people’s ideas of “change” will vary. So, while one person might think that Trump complaining means something is changing, others want immediate change.
It might be hard to pinpoint whether or not a protest will actually work. Though, the inclusion of people who may have otherwise ignored politics is a step in the right direction. Immediate change is pretty difficult but when more people educate themselves about various political issues, we become more knowledgeable and can become advocates for change of the future.