Are you taking a stand for #BlackLivesMatter? Marching against Brexit? Learn from these 6 movements or your protest won’t change anything.
Civil Rights Movement
What was it? A political movement in the US and beyond fighting for equal rights and an end to segregation.
How long did it last? The fight’s been going on since the 1860s, but we’re looking at the 1954 – 68 period.
What happened? Black communities organised protests and rallies tackling multiple issues, including apartheid and segregation policy, black suffrage, fair chances at employment and the right to decent housing. The struggle was also defined by a series of personal battles; Rosa Parks refusing to sit at the back of the bus, Brown v. Board of Education,
Did it work? Yes and no. Buses and bathrooms were desegregated, African-Americans gained full voting rights and major strides were made towards diversity in the workplace. However, as recent events illustrate racism is still alive and well in parts of the USA.
Stop the War
What was it? A campaign against Britain’s involvement in the Iraq War.
How long did it last? The largest protests were in 2003, some later ones throughout the war.
What happened? February 2003 saw the largest peace protest the world has ever seen. 1.5 million marched in London alone. Smaller protests followed but none achieved the same momentum.
Did it work? On the face of it, no. Blair and Bush still went to war and we still left Iraq in ruins. However, the unpopularity of the war made it much harder for future governments to rush into armed interventions. Arguably, this prevented Britain from getting involved in another quagmire in Syria when the vote came up last year. Blair also seems to be finally getting some comeuppance now that the Chilcot Inquiry has been published – it only took 13 years.
What was it? A campaign in the UK to get all women the right to vote.
How long did it last? The movement as we know it began in the 1890s and ended in 1928.
What happened? Marches and letter writing initially. Emmeline Pankhurst’s organisation pursued more militant methods, including interruption of town meetings and a literal storming of Parliament. Famously, Emily Davison was trampled by a horse after running onto the course at Epsom – this shocked and divided the nation.
Did it work? Yes, but not right away. In 1918 (after WWI), the vote was given to property-owning women over 30. Women didn’t get equal voting rights to men until 1928, when the franchise was extended to all women over the age of 21.
What was it? A campaign of protest and hacktivism against the Church of Scientology that began on 4chan.
How long did it last? January 2008 until November 2009. Protests began to trail off during the summer of 2008.
What happened? 4chan users shared a Tom Cruise Scientology video that shows him acting like a crazy person. the Church tried to shut it down. Anonymous retaliated with denial of service attacks and a call to action posted on Youtube. Anonymous protesters organised international days of action via internet forums and picketed Scientology locations around the globe armed with V for Vendetta masks, boomboxes and epic memes.
Did it work? The Church of Scientology hasn’t gone under, but they do find it a lot harder to operate in public. Following the exposure brought by Chanology a renewed public interest led to a number of documentaries and journalistic investigations. The organisation formed in the planning of Chanology blossomed into the Anonymous we all know today – which has since launched cyberattacks on the likes of Paypal, ISIS and Donald Trump.
The Arab Spring
What was it? A series of protest actions and popular revolutions across the Muslim world.
How long did it last? The actions themselves lasted throughout 2011. The consequences are still being felt today.
What happened? It began in Tunisia, with a protest against the ruling president demanding free and democratic elections. Similar uprisings happened in Egypt against Mubarak, in Syria against Assad, in Yemen against Saleh and in Libya against Ghaddafi. Those last 3 became full-blown civil wars.
Did it work? It seems to have done so in Tunisia, which has transitioned into a full democracy. Everywhere else it’s a different story. Egypt was briefly ruled by Mohammed Morsi before returning to an authoritarian status quo with el-Sisi, Libya got rid of Ghaddafi but is still unstable, Yemen is being bombed by Saudi Arabia and Syria…you know about Syria.
The 2011 Riots
What was it? Rioting in major cities across the UK, sparked off by the death of Mark Duggan at the hands of London police.
How long did it last? The first protest happened on 6th August, the last on 11th August.
What happened? The first violence happened after a protest in Tottenham against Mark Duggan’s death. Vehicles were destroyed and businesses either looted or vandalised. Over the next few days the unrest spread through London and into other cities in the UK, such as Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Bristol.
Did it work? No. While the initial protest was about a specific issue, events quickly spiralled out of control. For weeks afterwards news pundits, TV comedians, academics and politicians were trying to figure out why the riots even happened in the first place. Was it mistrust of police? Economic inequality? Class warfare? Consumerism gone wrong? Because there were no clear demands to be met, nothing really changed.