In cities across North America today (24 March 2018) teenagers and adults are marching to protest the excessive availability and use of guns, especially high-powered, assault-style rifles. Recent school shootings, attacks on churches, music festivals, nightclubs and shopping malls have created a sense of urgency among citizens to use the power of peaceful protests to call for legislative action by local, state/provincial and federal politicians.
News commentators and political pundits have likened today’s protest to the civil rights and anti-Vietnam protests that took place in the 1960s, that led to significant policy and cultural changes within the United States.
In the 1970s, people took to the streets to protest environmental degradation, pollution, nuclear power, and the growing decay of our urban centers caused by the concentration of capitalism in suburban shopping malls. It was also a time when women began protesting for equality and the right to making their own health care decisions.
By the 1980s those causes turned to nuclear proliferation, missile defense systems, HIV/AIDS, and of course the greed and excesses of Wall Street.
Protest in the late 20th century was a way for students and communities to rise together to voice their concerns and demonstrate against inequality, injustice and the growing concentration of economic wealth and power in the hands of fewer and fewer people throughout the world.
Since the advent of the commercial internet, large physical protests have been replaced by online activism (also known as slacktivism) and petitions for change. Instead of our voices and hand-made signs we have used our fingers and laptops to protest. While larger numbers of people can sign online petitions and add their voices through “e-protesting” — politicians and lawmakers have generally benefited: online became out-of-sight.
That was until 2017, following the election of Donald Trump, when millions of women, children and people around the world reclaimed the streets as avenues of protest to demonstrate against the incoming administration. In 2017 alone, there were an estimated 8700 protests in the United States, with up to 9 million people physically protest issues such as women’s rights and the importance of science (March for Science).
In the first three months of 2018, demonstrators have once again taken to the streets in record numbers to protest: the now annual women’s march, today’s march for our lives and in a couple of week’s the annual march for science. There is growing dissent and concern about the policies of the Trump government that is spurring increased protest from nearly every corner of the United States and throughout the world.
Protest is good…but does it really enable change?
While these protests don’t seem to impact Trump’s golf games or trips to Florida, they should have an impact on the 2018 mid-term elections — if the momentum and passion continue on pace over the next eight months. When protest signs are turned into increased numbers of voters and ballots on election day, then politicians will see this sea of change and hear the voices of the protestors who are demanding a voice in our democracies around the world.
Thanks to those young high school students today for are literally marching for their lives.