Peaceful Protesting is a form of civil disobedience that seeks to achieve political change by protesting nonviolently, and using creative tactics and strategies such as boycotts, vigils, marches, and sit-ins. It is an effective way to promote change and challenge injustices that affect people’s lives, including issues like poverty, corruption, discrimination and environmental destruction. Peaceful protests can take many forms, from online petitions and e-mails to strikes, demonstrations and a wide variety of acts of civil disobedience. They can also be a powerful tool in the fight against racism, and for equality, freedom and democracy.
Peaceful protests can have a profound impact on the world around us, and can spark a chain reaction of changes that leads to greater respect for human rights, better governance, fewer conflicts, and a more sustainable future. They are also a great way to build community and connect with others, as they inspire countless individuals to join in the struggle for social justice. While peaceful protest can be used to address a broad range of problems, some movements focus on specific issues, such as the environment, education, or racial justice. The most successful protests are the ones that capture the imagination and show that another world is possible. This can be achieved through small, hopeful acts of resistance – for example, a peaceful trespass on private land in the UK resulted in fracking being banned by law.
The right to protest is fundamental to democracy and it’s up to governments to respect, facilitate and protect this right. In a time where civic space continues to shrink and governments are increasingly securitising their approach to societal challenges, it’s vital to work together to acknowledge and support protestors as drivers for peace.
It’s often necessary to disrupt public life through peaceful protest to force a government to rethink its policies, but it is always more effective to do so with civil disobedience than with violence. Violent actions may cause more damage, lead to more deaths and potentially bring down a regime. Nonviolent protests can also help to gain the moral high ground, which was clearly the case for the movement led by Corazon Aquino in the Philippines in 1986 that overthrew dictator Ferdinand Marcos and restored democracy.
Protesters need to ensure that they are safe while engaging in peaceful protest, and this includes making sure they have access to the basics such as water, food and shelter. They should also make a plan with their group in case they get separated, and bring emergency supplies such as first aid, shatter resistant eye protection and a bandana soaked in water, lemon juice or vinegar that can be worn over the nose and mouth to avoid pepper spray. They must also be aware of the potential for violence from the authorities, so they should prepare a strategy in advance to respond effectively and quickly in the event of an attack.
Civil society and international actors should work together to support peaceful protest movements by documenting, recording and witnessing the behaviour of the authorities and their reactions to protests, promoting peer learning on best practices and encouraging solidarity between movements facing similar challenges. This can help to strengthen the acknowledgment of the role of these movements as drivers for peace, and encourage a shift in thinking by policy-makers and peacebuilding agencies about the importance of nonviolent democratic revolutions.