right on expressing opinions

Article 19 states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; yet not every one receives it. This right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

My first memory of protesting anything was like many, I was young and it was me against the world.

Oh wait, well…

It was more like me against my parents and some weird vegetable lurking on my plate staring at me, eyeballing me and ultimately standing in my way of any dessert.

As I grew up, my exposure for what protesting looked like changed quickly. Writing this now, I think of the TV Show “What’s Happening” and a somewhat now famous and cultish episode “No Roger, No Rerun, No Rent” that stuck with me all these years. Yes, sitcoms of all generations have shown what demonstrations can and should look like but what about real life?

Standing up for something isn’t only about our personal beliefs but the beliefs we share with others. This became increasing clear as I got older.

Fast forward to today.

It’s 2017 and this young century alone has been the stage for some of the most talked about protests regarding equality on race, religion, education, marriage, police, war and of course politics. I have personally been active in many of these issues as I feel strongly that if we don’t speak up, no one will hear us.

All of this got me thinking it was time to write an article on this subject. So, if you are thinking about organizing, standing for, sitting down or marching forward in a protest – here is what you should know and do to ensure it has purpose.

WHAT is a Protest:

  • noun • pro·test – ˈprōˌtest/ : A statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something.
  • verb • prəˈtest,prōˈtest/ : Express an objection to what someone has said or done. Declare (something) firmly and emphatically in the face of stated or implied doubt or in response to an accusation.

Webster’s is always great but let’s actually clarify the difference between a Protest vs. Demonstration (vs. Revolution):

  • Protest — A protest is a way to express objections with any event, situation, or policy. These objections can be manifested either by actions or by words.
  • Demonstration — A demonstration is a large group of people, usually gathering for a political cause. It usually includes a group march, ending with a rally or a speaker. A demonstration is similar to a protest in that they both can use the same or similar methods to achieve goals. However, demonstrations tend to be more abrasive and spontaneous, whereas protests tend to be more organized.
  • Revolution — A revolution is a major change in the power structure and takes place in a short amount of time. Most revolutions are violent and tend to focus on cultural, political, and economic issues.

Protests are commonly comprised of the following individuals and/or parties:

  • Participants. The resistors engaged in the protest.
  • Observers. The individuals at the businesses or institutions the protest is targeting, and the uninvolved bystanders who encounter or observe the protest.
  • Grapevine. Those who directly hear about the protest from some other person whom they know (including through personal social media).
  • Media. Those who learn of the protest through impersonal mass media.

WHY Protest:

Much to my surprise, as I was researching this article – there wasn’t a lot of information that was legitimized and non-contradictory of what the greater statistics had said on this topic. Here is what we do know thanks to an excellent article from The London School of Economics and Political Science. According to the Head of the Sociology Department at the University of Amsterdam, there are 5 factors that influence (by social context) why people protest:

  • Grievances: Refers to illegitimate inequality, feelings of relative deprivation, feelings of injustice, moral indignation about some state of affairs, or a suddenly imposed grievance. 
  • Efficacy: Refers to an individual’s expectation that it is possible to alter conditions or policies through protest. Group efficacy is the belief that group-related problems can be solved by collective efforts, and political efficacy is the belief that political actions can have an impact on the political process.
  • Identity: Indeed, the more people identify with a group the more they are inclined to protest on behalf of that group. In addition to shared fate, shared emotions, and enhanced efficacy, identification with others involved generates an inner obligation to behave as a ‘good’ group member.
  • Emotions: Although anger is seen as the prototypical protest emotion, contempt, shame, sympathy and outrage have also been related to protest. Recent research has also found that pride felt after collective action is an important predictor for future participation in collective action.
  • Social Embedment: Looks at how individual grievances and feelings are transformed into group-based grievances and feelings within social networks. Networks function as a ‘socialization device’ as they enable the formation of a mobilization potential and provide or reinforce political awareness around a given protest issue. They also operate as a ‘recruitment device’ by creating a contact between the potential participant and the movement.

WHEN to Protest:

There are literally hundreds if not thousands of reasons to protest. Here is but a small list of some of the most common:

  • It’s your constitutional right
  • It can bring about change
  • It brings about solidarity
  • It can unite people around the world
  • It exposes the truth

HOW to Protest:

Last but certainly not least, is how to actually protest. Whether you are the organizer or a participant, there are some key aspects worth knowing and understanding before engaging in a protest.

  • Firstly, know your rights. This is incredibly important whether you are an active participant or an innocent bystander.
  • Be aware of and know your surroundings and temperature of both the crowd and environment. The safety of yourself and those around you is paramount.
  • Educate yourself and know why you are participating. Have an understanding as to why you are there. It’s not a test but worth taking the time to fully embrace the cause.
  • Do your homework beforehand and know what type of protest you are consideringtaking part in and understand if it requires silence, shouting, walking and/or signs or a special color of clothing.

Final thoughts: Whether it’s personal or professional, we are all hard wired with certain principles and a belief system which we hold dear to ourselves. This foundation is what sets the course for what you’ll say, where you’ll say it and just how much attention you are willing to give to yourself, the cause and those around you. If you are interested in creating a protest, here is a simple step-by-step plan to get you started. Hopefully moving forward, you will be better informed the next time you want to stand up, sit down, march forward or speak up.

The floor is yours: What issues are you willing to fight for?

Please leave your comment below as your insights are greatly appreciated and a learning opportunity for everyone reading this article.

With leadership,

Joshua / www.JoshHMiller.com

Please click ‘Follow’ if you would like to hear more from me in the future.