Demonstration (political)

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Monday demonstrations in East Germany (1989-1991) helped to bring down the Berlin Wall. Bundesarchiv Bild 183-1989-1106-405, Plauen, Demonstration vor dem Rathaus.jpg
Monday demonstrations in East Germany (1989–1991) helped to bring down the Berlin Wall.
Demonstration in Canada against oil tankers, 1970 Demonstration against oil tankers on Canadian side of Peace Arch Park, 1970.jpg
Demonstration in Canada against oil tankers, 1970
Greece, 2013: a working-class political protest calling for the boycott of a bookshop after an employee was fired, allegedly for her labor-rights political activism Working-class protest in Greece.JPG
Greece, 2013: a working-class political protest calling for the boycott of a bookshop after an employee was fired, allegedly for her labor-rights political activism
Stockholm, 2015: protesters demonstrate against the city's new drastic plans for the Slussen area and interchange Slussen (sluice area) 2015 October Stockholm.jpg
Stockholm, 2015: protesters demonstrate against the city's new drastic plans for the Slussen area and interchange

A demonstration is action by a mass group or collection of groups of people in favor of a political or other cause or people partaking in a protest against a cause of concern; it often consists of walking in a mass march formation and either beginning with or meeting at a designated endpoint, or rally, to hear speakers. It is different from mass meeting.

Protest expression of objection

A protest is an expression of bearing witness on behalf of an express cause by words or actions with regard to particular events, policies or situations. Protests can take many different forms, from individual statements to mass demonstrations. Protesters may organize a protest as a way of publicly making their opinions heard in an attempt to influence public opinion or government policy, or they may undertake direct action in an attempt to directly enact desired changes themselves. Where protests are part of a systematic and peaceful nonviolent campaign to achieve a particular objective, and involve the use of pressure as well as persuasion, they go beyond mere protest and may be better described as cases of civil resistance or nonviolent resistance.

In parliamentary law, a mass meeting is a type of deliberative assembly, which in a publicized or selectively distributed notice known as the call of the meeting - has been announced:


Actions such as blockades and sit-ins may also be referred to as demonstrations. Demonstrations can be nonviolent or violent (usually referred to by participants as "militant"), or can begin as nonviolent and turn violent depending on the circumstances. Sometimes riot police or other forms of law enforcement become involved. In some cases this may be in order to try to prevent the protest from taking place at all.[ citation needed ] In other cases, it may be to prevent clashes between rival groups, or to prevent a demonstration from spreading and turning into a riot.


A sit-in or sit-down is a form of direct action that involves one or more people occupying an area for a protest, often to promote political, social, or economic change.

Riot police

Riot police are police who are organized, deployed, trained or equipped to confront crowds, protests or riots.

A law enforcement agency (LEA), in North American English, is a government agency responsible for the enforcement of the laws.

The term has been in use since the mid-19th century, as was the term "monster meeting", which was coined initially with reference to the huge assemblies of protesters inspired by Daniel O'Connell (1775–1847) in Ireland. [1] Demonstrations are a form of activism, usually taking the form of a public gathering of people in a rally or walking in a march. Thus, the opinion is demonstrated to be significant by gathering in a crowd associated with that opinion.

Meeting event in which two or more people assemble

A meeting is when two or more people come together to discuss one or more topics, often in a formal or business setting, but meetings also occur in a variety of other environments. Many various types of meetings exist.

Daniel OConnell Irish political leader

Daniel O'Connell, often referred to as The Liberator or The Emancipator, was an Irish political leader in the first half of the 19th century. He campaigned for Catholic emancipation—including the right for Catholics to sit in the Westminster Parliament, denied for over 100 years—and repeal of the Acts of Union which combined Great Britain and Ireland.

Activism efforts to promote, impede, or direct social, political, religious, economic, or environmental change, or stasis

Activism consists of efforts to promote, impede, direct, or intervene in social, political, economic, or environmental reform with the desire to make changes in society. Forms of activism range from mandate building in the community, petitioning elected officials, running or contributing to a political campaign, preferential patronage of businesses, and demonstrative forms of activism like rallies, street marches, strikes, sit-ins, or hunger strikes.

Demonstrations can promote a viewpoint (either positive or negative) regarding a public issue, especially relating to a perceived grievance or social injustice. A demonstration is usually considered more successful if more people participate. Research shows that anti-government demonstrations occur more frequently in affluent countries than in poor ones. [2]

A grievance is a wrong or hardship suffered, real or supposed, which forms legitimate grounds of complaint. In the past, the word meant the infliction or cause of hardship.

Historian Eric Hobsbawm wrote of demonstrations:

Eric Hobsbawm British academic historian and Marxist historiographer

Eric John Ernest Hobsbawm was a British historian of the rise of industrial capitalism, socialism and nationalism. He is considered as one of the world's best-known historians. Ideologically a life-long Marxist, his socio-political convictions influenced the character of his work. His best-known works include his trilogy about what he called the "long 19th century", The Age of Extremes on the short 20th century, and an edited volume that introduced the influential idea of "invented traditions".

Next to sex, the activity combining bodily experience and intense emotion to the highest degree is the participation in a mass demonstration at a time of great public exaltation. Unlike sex, which is essentially individual, it is by its nature collective… like sex it implies some physical action—marching, chanting slogans, singing—through which the merger of the individual in the mass, which is the essence of the collective experience, finds expression. [3]


During the American Civil Rights Movement and the March on Washington, leaders marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963. 1963 march on washington.jpg
During the American Civil Rights Movement and the March on Washington, leaders marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963.
Video of a demonstration in Argentina to commemorate the 1976 coup d'état.

There are many types of demonstrations, including a variety of elements. These may include:

Demonstrations are sometimes spontaneous gatherings, but are also utilized as a tactical choice by movements. They often form part of a larger campaign of nonviolent resistance, often also called civil resistance. Demonstrations are generally staged in public, but private demonstrations are certainly possible, especially if the demonstrators wish to influence the opinions of a small or very specific group of people. Demonstrations are usually physical gatherings, but virtual or online demonstrations are certainly possible.

Topics of demonstrations often deal with political, economic, and social issues. Particularly with controversial issues, sometimes groups of people opposed to the aims of a demonstration may themselves launch a counter-demonstration with the aim of opposing the demonstrators and presenting their view. Clashes between demonstrators and counter-demonstrators may turn violent.

Government-organized demonstrations are demonstrations which are organized by a government. The Islamic Republic of Iran, [4] [5] the People's Republic of China, [6] Republic of Cuba, [7] the Soviet Union [8] and Argentina, [9] among other nations, have had government-organized demonstrations.

Times and locations

Orange Revolution demonstrations lasted so long that demonstrators set up tents. Orange rev2.jpg
Orange Revolution demonstrations lasted so long that demonstrators set up tents.
Crowd in front of a McDonald's in Wangfujing on the 2011 Chinese pro-democracy protests Jasmine Revolution in China - Beijing 11 02 20 crowd.jpg
Crowd in front of a McDonald's in Wangfujing on the 2011 Chinese pro-democracy protests

Sometimes the date or location chosen for the demonstration is of historical or cultural significance, such as the anniversary of some event that is relevant to the topic of the demonstration.

Demonstration at the Andrassy avenue - Budapest Peace March for Hungary - 2013.10.23 (43).JPG
Demonstration at the Andrássy avenue – Budapest

Locations are also frequently chosen because of some relevance to the issue at hand. For example, if a demonstration is targeted at issues relating to foreign nation, the demonstration may take place at a location associated with that nation, such as an embassy of the nation in question.

Nonviolence or violence

A nonviolent protest in New Zealand Rally Against Asset Sales, Palmerston North, 14 July 2012 07.JPG
A nonviolent protest in New Zealand

Protest marches and demonstrations are a common nonviolent tactic. They are thus one tactic available to proponents of strategic nonviolence. However, the reasons for avoiding the use of violence may also derive, not from a general doctrine of nonviolence or pacifism, but from considerations relating to the particular situation that is faced, including its legal, cultural and power-political dimensions: this has been the case in many campaigns of civil resistance. [10]

Some demonstrations and protests can turn, at least partially, into riots or mob violence against objects such as automobiles and businesses, bystanders and the police.[ citation needed ] Police and military authorities often use non-lethal force or less-lethal weapons, such as tasers, rubber bullets, pepper spray, and tear gas against demonstrators in these situations.[ citation needed ] Sometimes violent situations are caused by the preemptive or offensive use of these weapons which can provoke, destabilize, or escalate a conflict.

As a known tool to prevent the infiltration by agents provocateurs, [11] the organizers of large or controversial assemblies may deploy and coordinate demonstration marshals, also called stewards. [12] [13]

Law by country


Freedom of assembly in Brazil is granted by art. 5th, item XVI, of the Constitution of Brazil (1988): Constitution of Brazil – Text in English.



Freedom of assembly in the Russian Federation is granted by Art. 31 of the Constitution adopted in 1993:

Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to gather peacefully, without weapons, and to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets. [14]

Demonstrations and protests are further regulated by the Federal Law of the Russian Federation No.54-FZ "On Meetings, Rallies, Demonstrations, Marches and Pickets". If the assembly in public is expected to involve more than one participant, its organisers are obliged to notify executive or local self-government authorities of the upcoming event few days in advance in writing. However, legislation does not foresee an authorisation procedure, hence the authorities have no right to prohibit an assembly or change its place unless it threatens the security of participants or is planned to take place near hazardous facilities, important railways, viaducts, pipelines, high voltage electric power lines, prisons, courts, presidential residences or in the border control zone. The right to gather can also be restricted in close proximity of cultural and historical monuments.


Public demonstrations are rare in Singapore, where it is illegal to hold cause-related events without a valid licence from the authorities. Such laws include the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act and the Public Order Act.


United Kingdom

Demonstration in front of the British parliament Manifs a londres contre la guerre en irak.JPG
Demonstration in front of the British parliament

Under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 and the Terrorism Act 2006, there are areas designated as 'protected sites' where people are not allowed to go. Previously, these were military bases and nuclear power stations, but the law is changing to include other, generally political areas, such as Downing Street, the Palace of Westminster, and the headquarters of MI5 and MI6. Previously, trespassers to these areas could not be arrested if they had not committed another crime and agreed to be escorted out, but this will change following amendments to the law. [15]

Human rights groups fear the powers could hinder peaceful protest. Nick Clegg, the then Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "I am not aware of vast troops of trespassers wanting to invade MI5 or MI6, still less running the gauntlet of security checks in Whitehall and Westminster to make a point. It's a sledgehammer to crack a nut." Liberty, the civil liberties pressure group, said the measure was "excessive". [16]

United States

The First Amendment of the United States Constitution specifically allows peaceful demonstrations and the freedom of assembly as part of a measure to facilitate the redress of such grievances. "Amendment I: Congress shall make no law ... abridging ... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." [17]

A growing trend in the United States has been the implementation of "free speech zones", or fenced-in areas which are often far-removed from the event which is being protested; critics of free-speech zones argue that they go against the First Amendment of the United States Constitution by their very nature, and that they lessen the impact the demonstration might otherwise have had. In many areas it is required to get permission from the government to hold a demonstration.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

Free speech zone

Free speech zones are areas set aside in public places for the purpose of political protesting. The First Amendment to the United States Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging ... the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The existence of free speech zones is based on U.S. court decisions stipulating that the government may reasonably regulate the time, place, and manner – but not content – of expression.

Taksim Square square in Istanbul, Turkey

Taksim Square, situated in Beyoğlu in the European part of Istanbul, Turkey, is a major tourist and leisure district famed for its restaurants, shops, and hotels. It is considered the heart of modern Istanbul, with the central station of the Istanbul Metro network. Taksim Square is also the location of the Republic Monument which was crafted by Pietro Canonica and inaugurated in 1928. The monument commemorates the 5th anniversary of the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, following the Turkish War of Independence.

The Miami model are the tactics employed by coordinated law enforcement agencies during demonstrations in Miami, Florida relating to the negotiations for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) trade agreement in November 2003. The same tactics were first developed and tested at the 2000 Republican National Convention under the direction of Police Chief John Timoney.

Nonviolent revolution

A nonviolent revolution is a revolution using mostly campaigns with civil resistance, including various forms of nonviolent protest, to bring about the departure of governments seen as entrenched and authoritarian. While many campaigns of civil resistance are intended for much more limited goals than revolution, generally a nonviolent revolution is characterized by simultaneous advocacy of democracy, human rights, and national independence in the country concerned. In some cases a campaign of civil resistance with a revolutionary purpose may be able to bring about the defeat of a dictatorial regime only if it obtains a degree of support from the armed forces, or at least their benevolent neutrality.

The Clamshell Alliance is an anti-nuclear organization co-founded by Paul Gunter, Howie Hawkins, Howard Morland, Harvey Wasserman, Guy Chichester, Robert "Renny" Cushing, Jeff Brummer, Anna Gyorgy, Kristie Conrad, Kate Walker, Robin Read, and other activists in 1976.

First Quarter Storm conflict

The First Quarter Storm was a period of civil unrest in the Philippines, composed of a series of heavy demonstrations, protests, and marches against the government from January to March 1970, or the first quarter of 1970. Student activists played a large role in these demonstrations, expressing their condemnation of the country's economic crisis and rampant imperialism. These violent protests, along with the subsequent protests they inspired, were collectively a major factor that led to the declaration of Martial Law in 1972.

2006 protests in Hungary protest

The 2006 protests in Hungary were a series of anti-government protests triggered by the release of Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány's private speech in which he confessed that his Hungarian Socialist Party had lied to win the 2006 election, and had done nothing worth mentioning in the previous four years of governing. Most of the events took place in Budapest and other major cities between 17 September and 23 October. It was the first sustained protest in Hungary since 1989.

Freedom of assembly in the Russian Federation is granted by Art. 31 of the Constitution adopted in 1993:

Citizens of the Russian Federation shall have the right to gather peacefully, without weapons, and to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets.

The Copenhagen December Riot took place on 16 December 2006 in the Copenhagen area of Nørrebro. The spark of the riot was the longstanding conflict over the fate of the alternative left-wing social centre Ungdomshuset. The riot broke out when a Black Bloc demonstration in support of Ungdomshuset was blocked by the police. The riot was the worst of its kind in Copenhagen for at least 13 years and marked a low point in the negotiations between the authorities and the users of Ungdomshuset.

2008 Armenian presidential election protests protest

A series of mass protests were held in Armenia in the wake of the Armenian presidential election of 19 February 2008. Mass protests against alleged electoral fraud were held in the capital city of Yerevan and organised by supporters of the unsuccessful presidential candidate and first President of the Republic of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrosyan.

Right to protest

The right to protest is a human right arising out of a number of recognized human rights. While no human rights instrument or national constitution grants the absolute right to protest, such a right to protest may be a manifestation of the right to freedom of assembly, the right to freedom of association, and the right to freedom of speech.Additionally, protest and restrictions on protest have lasted as long as governments have.

Anti-nuclear protests in the United States

There were many anti-nuclear protests in the United States which captured national public attention during the 1970s and 1980s. These included the well-known Clamshell Alliance protests at Seabrook Station Nuclear Power Plant and the Abalone Alliance protests at Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, where thousands of protesters were arrested. Other large protests followed the 1979 Three Mile Island accident.

HIMA Youth Initiative

HIMA!, is a youth initiative in Yerevan, Armenia, advocating democracy and civil rights against the oppression of the authoritarian regime of Armenia’s former President Robert Kocharyan and his hand-picked successor, Serge Sargsyan.

2009 Georgian demonstrations

In 2009, a mass rally by a coalition of opposition parties in took place in Georgia against the government of President Mikheil Saakashvili. Thousands of people demonstrated, mainly in the capital, Tbilisi, starting on 9 April 2009, demanding Saakashvili's resignation. On the first day of demonstrations, up to 60,000 people gathered in Tbilisi. Opposition activists had expected some 100,000 – 150,000 participants. Protests continued for over three months, although fewer people participated as time passed than during the first days. On 26 May 2009, the Georgian Independence Day, 50,000 protesters took part. Although peaceful at first, there were incidents of fighting between the Georgian police and protesters. The daily rallies gradually dwindled and ended, without achieving any tangible results, on 24 July –107 days after they kicked off.

The Kuwaiti protests refers to the series of 2011–12 demonstrations for government reforms in the state of Kuwait. In November 2011, the government of Kuwait resigned in response to the protests, making Kuwait one of several countries affected by the Arab Spring to experience major governmental changes due to unrest. The protests began with stateless people (Bedoon).

The 1996 Parliament House riot involved a physical attack on Parliament House, Canberra, Australia, on 19 August 1996, when protesters broke away from the "Cavalcade to Canberra" rally organised by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) and sought to force their way into the national Parliament of Australia, causing property damage and attacking police.

Srđa Popović (activist) Serbian democracy activist

Srđa Popović is a Serbian political activist. He was a leader of the student movement Otpor! that helped topple Serbian president Slobodan Milošević. After briefly pursuing a political career in Serbia, he established the Centre for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) in 2003 and published Blueprint for Revolution in 2015. CANVAS has worked with pro-democracy activists from more than 50 countries, promoting the use of non-violent resistance in achieving political and social goals.

2014 Hungarian Internet tax protests

In late October 2014, anti-government demonstrations were held in Hungary, which were triggered by the government's announcement of a proposal to include the taxation of Internet usage in the Taxation Law, to be in effect from 2015. The ruling right-wing coalition’s larger party, Fidesz made their proposal public on October 21, which is meant to extend the existing telecommunications tax to Internet usage. The proposal designated a 150 HUF/GB tax rate paid by the internet service providers. Later, a cap was proposed: HUF 700 per month (individuals) or HUF 5,000 (companies).

2017 May Day protests

The 2017 May Day protests were a series of protests that took place on May Day over worker and immigrant rights, throughout the United States and around the world. Protests became violent in Olympia, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. Many demonstrators were protesting against the policies of President Donald Trump, specifically those related to immigration.


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  2. Shishkina, Alisa; Bilyuga, Stanislav; Korotayev, Andrey. "GDP Per Capita and Protest Activity: A Quantitative Reanalysis". Cross-Cultural Research: 106939711773232. ISSN   1069-3971.
  3. Eric Hobsbawm (2003). Interesting Times: A Twentieth-Century Life. Random House Digital, Inc. p. 73.
  4. Analysis: Iran Sends Terror-Group Supporters To Arafat's Funeral Procession "...state-organized rallies..."
  5. Why Washington and Tehran are headed for a showdown The Hedge Fund Journal 16 April 200
  6. Global News, No. GL99-072 China News Digest June 3, 1989
  7. Cubans ponder life without Fidel The Washington Times 2 August 2006
  8. "Democracy in the Former Soviet Union: 1991–2004" Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine Power and Interest News Report 28 December 2004
  9. Nicolás Pizzi (2012-07-29). "Militancia todo terreno: Sacan a presos de la cárcel para actos del kirchnerismo" [All-terrain militants: Prisoners are taken out of jail to take part in Kirchnerist demonstrations] (in Spanish). Clarín. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
  10. Adam Roberts and Timothy Garton Ash (eds.), Civil Resistance and Power Politics: The Experience of Non-violent Action from Gandhi to the Present, Oxford University Press, 2009, especially at pp. 14–20. Includes chapters by specialists on the various movements.
  11. Stratfor (2004) Radical, Anarchist Groups Pose Their Own Threat published by Stratfor, June 4, 2004 quote:
    Another common tactic is to infiltrate legitimate demonstrations in the attempt to stir widespread violence and rioting, seen most recently in a spring anti-Iraq war gathering in Vancouver, Canada. This has become so commonplace that sources within activist organizations have told STRATFOR they police their own demonstrations to prevent infiltration by fringe groups.
  12. Belyaeva et al. (2007) Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly , published by OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. Alternative version, Sections § 7–8, 156–162
  13. Bryan, Dominic The Anthropology of Ritual: Monitoring and Stewarding Demonstrations in Northern Ireland , Anthropology in Action, Volume 13, Numbers 1–2, January 2006, pp.22–31(10)
  14. Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation
  15. Morris, Steven, "New powers against trespassers at key sites", The Guardian , 24 March 2007. Retrieved on 23 June 2007.
  16. Brown, Colin, "No-go Britain: Royal Family and ministers protected from protesters by new laws", The Independent , 4 June 2007. Retrieved on 23 June 2007.
  17. "America's Founding Documents". 30 October 2015.