How to go on a protest march
by Deborah Taylor
You want to make a change to the way things are done, but you aren't old enough to vote. Or, possibly, you've lost all respect for politicians and would rather not vote. What else can you do? You could try emailing your MP, but one way to really get your voice heard is to go on a protest march.
A protest march is, in principle, quite simple. You gather a like-minded group of people together, you all march through a city, making sure people are sure of your message, and then you go home, feeling happy and smug that you've done your bit. Sometimes the message is heard. Mostly it's not.
Before you attend your first protest, and you really should protest, make sure you plan. Most big protests will be organised and attended by most of the major grass root political groups. A local branch will almost certainly be arranging transport to get to the protest. Boost the numbers of the protest by getting your friends to go along too.
Make sure you dress comfortably. Take light waterproof clothing with you and wear good shoes. You are going to be doing a lot of walking, so you need to make sure you will make it until the end. Take bottles of water and energy bars or fruit with you.
If you're planning on taking a placard, remember you will be carrying it for the whole march, so think carefully about what you want to say. A badge has less visibility but is a much lighter way to make your pithy statement.
During the protest, stick with your friends and stick to the pre-arranged route. Enjoy the singing, enjoying the chanting, enjoy the day. Keep your phone handy, in case you get split up. Be respectful to the police and do as they say. (We'll be covering this next week in 'How to stay safe on a protest march'). Do not cause trouble. The organisers of the protests will not thank you for sullying their event and their message. You want to make your voice heard, not your fists.
Most marches end with some sort of rally. Protest rallies are always fun to attend - you get to hear some interesting speakers and engage in interesting conversation. There may be opportunities for further, peaceful, protest statements. I remember at a protest against student loans, Billy Bragg tried to start a sit-in in the university library. You get to find new groups who will be happy to discuss their issues with you. Happy to help you get further involved.
Most protests, unfortunately, go unreported. They only really get reported when the number of people protesting is impressive - for example, the millions who marched against the Iraq War in 2003, or when something more violent happens, such as the anti-capitalist protests in London in 2009. But that shouldn't deter you - the right to protest is one that should be exercised often. Even if it doesn't appear to have any affect at first, protesting can and does make a change.