How do protests work?


Do the people in office just get peer pressured into resigning or something?

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Well, often they don’t work.

When they *do* work it’s because they’re implied threats.

“We’ll stay here making noise, blocking traffic and being a nuisance until you give in to our demands”.

“We’ll make enough noise that this city is going to be on all the front pages, nationwide or even globally, for as long as it takes”


“we’re staying here and not going back to work until you give us what you want”


“we’ll stay here, and if you let a month-long protest happen it’ll look bad for you and you’ll never get re-elected. And you’ll probably also hurt your party. It’s best for you to just step back now”

or even

“we’re just standing here shouting and waving signs *for now*, but we can turn this into a riot if need be. We’ll burn down this damn city if we have to”

The “everyone is out waving signs for an afternoon and then we’ll go back to normal” kind of protests generally don’t move the needle. But protests which threaten to continue for longer periods, or which threaten to cause more significant trouble might actually put the people in power under pressure or making them look bad. And that can get results.

For most protests the answer is “they don’t (work).” For protests that do, we can think about them working in three different ways:

1. They bring attention to an issue that brings it to light, or forces public recognition, or makes it harder to ignore. This creates an environment where people with similar issues are more likely to speak up about their experiences, knowing that there are like minded people out there. Think: #MeToo
2. When the issue is severe enough and left ignore, the protests continue to grow, both in geography and intensity (both intensity of the protest and its response). If a protest threatens to spiral into general and wide spread chaos, a government would be motivated to address it in some fashion. Think: Civil Rights and Anti-War protests of the 60s and 70s.
3. If the protest is coupled with actual action that negative impacts a political or commercial organization, then they are encouraged to act in their self-interest by addressing the protest. Think: Montgomery Bus Boycott

The goal is to get people in power – be it social, commercial, or political – to enact changes desired by the protesters, not simply resignation.

You go and hang out, and the government takes your picture, without you knowing it. And the you end up in a file at the FBI, And in terrorist files at homeland security, not to mention what ever state and local files you might end up in. I’d skip it if I were you, And find another way to make a dent. Believe me, I’m from Washington State. I know.