The Era of Protest
By Erin Rebello
Whether it’s been a twitter campaign against female sexual assault, a student walk-out for climate justice, a full-fledged teacher strike, a rally for disabled workers, 2019 sure seems to be the year of protests. You may have participated in a protest, or perhaps even several. To many, it seems like we have entered the era of protest. However, even though it may seem abrupt or out of the ordinary, protests have been going on for ages, but differently.
Protests have evolved greatly throughout the decades, changing and adapting as technology and the media change. Protests used to be characterized by large mobs of people, holding handmade signs and crying out for change. Though that can still be seen nowadays in rallies such as the Women’s March, or the March for our Lives, you’ll also find yourself surrounded by cyber protest. Take for example the #Metoo and #Timesup hashtags that allowed women to come together to fight against people in power who took advantage of them. You’ve also probably stumbled upon a few Instagram pages asking viewers to like and share their posts to spread awareness of certain issues.
Another thing that has drastically changed about the way people protest is the people who are protesting. In the past protests were led mainly by adults, however, these days, youth are also taking part in these fights for their rights. Consider Greta Thunberg, the teenage climate activist from Sweden who changed the conversation around climate change and environmental protection. Through her “Fridays for the Future” protest, Greta has been able to gain traction and spread awareness for her cause. Although children are usually portrayed as immature and powerless, in this era of protest, we can be heard and make waves in politics.
Being caught in the middle of certain protests (such as labour strikes) can be very difficult. During union strikes, workers either reduce the amount of work they complete, or stop doing their job altogether. It’s not fun to have mail delays or bus cancellations, and it can be easy to put all the blame on the workers, however, that simply isn’t fair. When looking at a protest, it’s important to consider the reasons a certain group is protesting. Is something wrong? Are they being mistreated? Is there illicit behavior involved? Take for example the 2019 Education strikes across Ontario. With drastic changes to class sizes, curriculum, eLearning quotas, and educator salaries, brought on by provincial government, the teachers’ unions of various schoolboard across Ontario have decided to go on strike or work to rule. Though this impacts students greatly, it’s still important for teachers to protest these changes and protect their rights. Not only that, but teachers are also protesting to protect the interests of their students.
In conclusion, although protest has been around for ages, new developments in how we protest, why we protest, and what we protest for have changed the way we view it. Although it may seem more annoying than helpful at times, strikes and protests allow people to voice their opinions and fight for their rights. And hey, maybe you’ll even find yourself participating in a protest.