When you think an issue is important, protesting can help educate a crowd and raise public awareness. But there are a number of issues to consider before launching into the streets. With the right planning and thought, a protest can run smoothly and still get your message across.
Types of protests
People protest in different ways, for example:
Picketing is a well-known and often rowdy form of protest. Usually, a group of people hold up large signs and chant and sing in front of a targeted site.
Marching is a form of protest that can be disruptive but quite effective in bringing public attention to a cause. Usually, a large number of people gather and walk from one symbolic destination to another while chanting.
Holding a vigil is a more symbolic kind of protest, often in memory of an event or person. Vigils involve a group of people sitting or standing silently in a specific location. They’re usually held at night, with candlelight. This can be a very positive way to raise awareness of an issue which causes minimal public disruption.
Sit-ins usually involve a group occupying a public or private space where they will attract attention. During this time, the members of the protest make a demand and stay put till this demand is met or at least discussed.
Organise a core group
When you have come up with an idea for an event assign roles to members of your group, covering areas such as:
- Media coverage
- Signs and placards
Pick a time and location
Different dates, times and locations will have different impacts. Think about who will be protesting and who you want to target. Causing maximum inconvenience (for example in peak hour traffic) may not always result in the best outcome or public sympathy for your issue.
Round up volunteers
Gather as many people as you can to help out on the day. Remember to contact them the night before to remind them about the protest.
Make it known
A successful protest needs to get people’s attention. Put the word out through emails, posters and flyers, local media, word of mouth and any other way you can. For tips on how to publicise your event, visit the Promote an Event section.
Speakers can inspire and educate the crowd, but keep the speeches short and sweet. Try to line up a diverse group, so that as many people will feel involved as possible. Make sure you confirm with them all before the event.
Think up a catchy chant
Simple slogans stick in people’s memory. But don’t be too obscure or aggressive. You want a passerby to understand and to be educated about your issue, not confused or annoyed.
Check for hazards or dangers
People at a protest should still feel safe. Planning ahead can reduce the chance for unexpected threats or dangers. Make sure you survey the area well in advance. Think about all of the potential risks to someone at the protest, and identify what you can do to reduce or remove the chance of something going wrong.
Notify the authorities
There’s probably a range of people that you’ll need to contact for permission to stage a protest. This could include:
- The police
- Local council
- University campus or school authorities.
The relevant authorities will be far more likely to cooperate if they know what is going on, and they may even have some good advice.
You may also need specific permits or formal permissions. If your protest is within your school, ask administrative or senior staff what you need to do. If it’s at uni, check with any of the campus unions on the best approach.
List all the equipment and tools that you’ll need, for example, stands, microphones, video cameras and amplifiers. Check that everything is in working order and plan how you’ll get things to and from the location.
Check the weather
A public open air demonstration is not going to get much support if the forecast is heavy rain. Make sure you have an indoor or back up plan with an alternate date, just in case Mother Nature is feeling uncooperative.
Hand out information
A large part of protesting is increasing public awareness and so communication is critical. Delegate a group to hand out flyers to people passing by or to approach the crowd to sign petitions.
Clean up your mess
Make sure you clean up when you’re done. Remember that people have to use that space after you’re finished, so leave it the way you found it.
Promote your event - information on youthcentral on how to get information out there about your event.