Power: The Relationship Between People and Protest

By: Emilia MacDonald

Edited by: Natalie Cowan

Through the growth of social media journalism and activism, we now live in a society where all events that take place around the globe can be witnessed in real-time. This means that there are no conflicts or tensions that happen in isolation, leading to an increased public awareness in world events. As a result, conflicts and tensions no longer happen in isolation, leading to increased public awareness of world events. With the 2010’s being declared as the ‘decade of protest’, it is evident that social justice movements and human rights issues have more of a platform than ever. Though the sheer amount of information is daunting to many, the act of protest now allows the public to have a voice when political issues or human rights violations arise.

As evidenced throughout modern history, protests have been vital in the shaping of our social landscape. While social media is key due to its ability to relay an abundance of information, it is necessary to recognize the root of political movements and how they use the tools of protest to create lasting change. 

Playing an integral role in both social and political landscapes, protests allow public voices to be heard and push institutions to acknowledge and ensure the protection of human rights. The process by which protests take place is far more complex than what may be acknowledged by the government and media sources. Public protesting can occur in both online and offline settings, including strikes, marches, sit-ins, and acts of civil disobedience. Protesting demonstrates the power that citizens have over institutions and organizations, yet the recognized human rights of protesting, including rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and freedom from arbritary arrest, torture, and punishment, have recently become jeopardized.

While citizens have a right to protest peacefully, in the past decade, protests have become overly militarized. This is demonstrated through the deployment of military armed forces, through the  deployment of military armed forces, supplying police with military weapons like drones, assault, and stun grenades. 

Due to this, it makes sense that this continued use of military tactics by governments and law enforcement has led to worsening relations between public and a country’s institutions. These tensions can be exemplified outside the Minneapolis police department after the 2020 of George Floyd. Protests quickly turned violent, with people looting and throwing projectiles, while the police retaliated with riot gear, firing rubber bullets in the crowds, and the spraying of tear gas. 

Though the media often twists the story to spin the public against protesters in an attempt to disrupt the momentum of social movements, it is important to identify the bias that the media holds, and the importance of advocating for human rights in times of crisis. Protesting allows the voices of the public and minority groups to be heard when they are often bullied into silence. 

When attending protests, it is important to be aware of personal safety. Mechanisms of safe protesting include being aware of your rights, being aware of what to expect, wearing protective clothing, packing supplies including water and a basic first aid kit, and being prepared to document your experience. 

Protesting is vital to the health of our democracy and the social welfare of our communities, both on a local and global scale. Since we as the people have power, it is necessary to support those who are fighting for their human rights. Support and awareness are vital to those who are fighting for freedom, equal rights, and a safe and healthy environment for all.

 

References

Amnesty International (n.d.)  Protect The Protest. https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/freedom-of-expression/protest/

Chotiner, I. (2020, May 29) How violent protests change politics. The New Yorker. https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/how-violent-protests-change-politics

Human Rights Watch (2019, December, 19) The Enduring Power of Protests: Around the world, People are putting their lives at risk to defend rights. Human Rights Watch Organization https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/12/09/enduring-power-protest?gad_source=1&gclid=Cj0KCQiAmNeqBhD4ARIsADsYfTdE6GARVS3gWN2p3KcgirrIVBp2kqCXFF1ZlZTzsnTu91gG718MVBEaAoJnEALw_wcB

Norman, R. (2017, December 14) Six reasons why protest is so important for democracy. Open Democracy. https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/six-reasons-why-protest-is-so-important/

Photo:

Hickson, A. (2022, January 16). Can’t believe we have to protest our right to protest! [Online Photo]. https://www.flickr.com/photos/alisdare/51823002012