People often like to ask “but does protesting ACTUALLY work? Does it really achieve anything?” to which I say – you bet your ass it does, buddy. Sit down, buckle up, and get ready to be proved a thing or two about how protesting CAN work. Here are 10 iconic protests that actually did the trick:
1.) The Soweto school strike and uprising, 1976
Pupils in Orlando West Junior School in Soweto, South Africa, staged a walkout in protest to being taught in Afrikaans. This was the trigger that sparked the movement that then became led by Nelson Mandela, and subsequently overthrew apartheid in South Africa… I mean DAYUM.
2.) The march on Washington, 1963
This was the protest where Martin Luther King Jr. delivered the iconic “I have a dream” speech at the base of the Lincoln Memorial. Around 200,000 protesters gathered in Washington to fight for civil rights for African Americans, and leaders met with President Kennedy afterwards to discuss their goals. This then lead to the Civil Rights Act being passed a year later. COME THRU!
3.) The Boston Tea Party, 1773
This sounds like a cute little get together ya nan would invite you to, but gurl, it was anything but a party. The Boston Tea Party saw protesters gather to reject a shipment of tea in the Boston harbour. They were protesting the British government’s “Tea Act” which allowed them buy tea at a reduced cost from the East India Co. and make a profit off the American consumers. And, y’know, what this represented – Britain’s control over America. Protesters stormed the ship and pushed about 46 tons of tea overboard. Talk about SPILLING THE T.
This helped spur on the American Revolution, and subsequently, America’s independence from Britain to become the USA. Bye Felicia.
4.) Gandhi’s salt march, 1930
OK, so let’s be real, Britain was a proper dickhead country. We colonised countries and took away their independence, and honestly I am truly sorry on behalf of Britannia. So we ruled over India, right, and get this – we wouldn’t allow them to even get their own fucking salt.
It was against the law for Indians to extract and sell their own salt – they were forced to pay the far higher price of salt that was made in the UK and imported. Wowwww. Petty much?
Gandhi was like fuck this, and in March 1930, he led a 24 day march from the city of Ahmedabad to the coast at Dandi, gathering more and more followers along the way. Throwing a massive two fingers up to the British Empire, him and his squad got in the sea to get salt. This was the spark that led to years of civil disobedience that India struggled through for independence, and in the end, they got it.
5.) Stonewall, 1969
In June 1969, New York police raided The Stonewall Inn, a Mafia-owned bar that served as a safe place for gay and lesbian New Yorkers to congregate. This led to a few days of heavy rioting, which then escalated into a full on movement for gay rights. And now we literally have a prime time TV show dedicated to drag queens thriving. You can’t say progress ain’t possible!
6.) Tahrir Square, 2011
Egypt’s president, Hosni Mubarak, had been president for 30 years – and Egyptians had had enough. He was doing a shite job. There was massive unemployment and political unrest, and over A MILLION PEOPLE assembled in Tahrir Square on 25th January to protest.
For two weeks they stayed there, even as pro-Mubarak forces attacked them with rocks, tear gas and even fucking CAMELS. But they never gave in, and Mubarak finally stepped down on 11th February.
7.) The Lusty Lady Strike of San Francisco, 1997
The strippers at the Lusty Lady club in San Francisco wanted a union, so they protested by asking customers not to come inside unless they could have one. After a lengthy legal battle, they were granted it – and they joined the Service Employees International Union. Then, in 2003, the girls bought the club and it became the first employee-owned strip club in America. ICONIC.
8.) The “Lactivists” at Applebee’s, 2007
A “nurse-in” was scheduled across America to protest the restaurant chain Applebee’s, after one mother was told to cover herself with a blanket whilst breastfeeding. Demonstrators across 30 different states staged a “nurse-in”, where they all went into Applebee’s at the same time and breastfed their children in plain view.
Applebee’s put out a statement in response saying “This situation has provided an opportunity for us to work with our associates to ensure we’re making nursing mothers feel welcome….we will also accommodate other guests who would be more comfortable moving to another area of the restaurant.”
So I guess they managed to please both sides, but at least they recognised that it was the guests who had a problem that were, y’know, the problem.
9.) Storming of the Bastille, 1789
Remember Les Mis? Yeah, this is that. An angry mob attacked The Bastille, a state prison on the east side of Paris. The prison had become a symbol of the monarchy’s dictatorship-like ruling over France, and Marie Antoinette’s suggestion of eating cake just wasn’t gonna cut it. The event became one of the defining moments in the Revolution that followed, and ultimately led to France’s freedom from the monarchy and the start of the republic. Liberté, egalité, fraternité, bitches.
10.) The Suffrage movement
And of course, who can forget the Suffragettes, throwing themselves in front of horses and undergoing force feeding so that women in the UK could get the vote. Although they were kinda racist, making it predominantly a cause for white women (and the entire thing is now subsequently pretty whitewashed).
According to Anita Anand, author of Sophia: Princess, Suffragette, Revolutionary, Indian women were involved in the UK’s fight for women’s votes too, particularly the Princess of India, Sophia Duleep Singh:
“There were many overlaps between the Indian suffrage movement and the British suffrage movement. Sophia Duleep Singh had every reason to hate the British. They had taken everything from her: her father’s kingdom, wealth, future, everything. But she believed in this sisterhood, and she sacrificed everything to fight for British women’s vote, and also then fought for Indian women’s emancipation as well.”
All women in the UK have had the right to vote for a long time now thanks to the bravery of thousands of women across the globe (check out the Wikipedia page to find out what went down in other countries). Obviously, this doesn’t mean the fight is over – women in Saudi Arabia only just got the vote in 2015. Women in the UAE still don’t have full suffrage.
Plus, a fuck ton of other stuff that needs protesting about. So next time your basic friend says to you that protesting won’t change anything, you’ve got your comeback, with receipts!