Do marches and demonstrations work?
An effective way of getting media coverage for your cause.
Marching is still a common form of protest. In a protest march a large group of people, sometimes hundreds of thousands, gather to demand changes or to challenge the actions of the government. The march often begins or ends with a rally where outspoken politicians, activists and musicians are asked to give short speeches or perform songs.
A good example of this type of demonstration is when thousands of people took to the streets of Dublin, Cork, Galway and London in memory of Savita Halappanavar, in November 2012. Savita died following a miscarriage at University Hospital Galway; both the Indian and Irish community rallied together, holding vigils and marching to mark her death.
Marches are the loudest and usually most disruptive type of protest. They are an effective way of guaranteeing media coverage for your cause.
Things to consider when organising a march
Decide what size of march you wish to organise. Having 100 people march through or gather in your local town can be just as effective as having 10,000 march through a big city.
Check out a few possible routes and how long it will take to walk. A mile long march is a useful marker. A common route is to start on the outskirts of a town and march to a town square or central place where a rally is held.
Contact the Gardaí
It’s important to contact your local Garda station and speak to someone in charge of public events. Be confident on the phone and remember it is your right to peaceful public protest. Inform the Gardaí when and where you plan to organise the march and what route you will take. This is very important as the Gardaí can then re-direct traffic and allow your march to pass through safely.
How to organise a march or protest
Make sure your march is colourful, well advertised and that it makes loads of noise. Organise an evening before the march to make a large banner and placards. Make up some chants and get hold of a few loudspeakers.
Get a core organising group to meet before the march. Make sure there is someone to hand out leaflets to the public, deal with the media and keep in contact with the Gardaí.
Organise reflective vests for stewards (supervision and safety). You might want to get a few older experienced adults on board to help out and lend advice on the day of your march.
If the march costs your group money for materials and other stuff, then don’t be shy about organising a public collection. Get your hands on a few buckets and stick a label to the sides explaining your march.
No matter how serious the issue you are marching for is, get a light-hearted and upbeat atmosphere going. You will attract a lot more people to your march and raise greater awareness of the issue.
Organise a rally in a highly visible public area where your march will finish up. Invite outspoken politicians and key supporters and musicians/poets and give them each 5-10 minutes max to speak or perform for the cause. Make sure someone from your group gets up and says a few words too!
After the march and rally is over, make sure you have a dedicated clean up crew and people to store banners, placards, loud speakers and any collection you’ve made.
If this sounds like a lot to organise, don’t be put off! It is just a few hours work if you have a core team sharing tasks and responsibilities.
Making posters for your march
Posters are effective when you want to get a small amount of information across quickly and easily in a visual way. The advantage of posters is that their success is not dependent on materials and resources but on the message. Of course, it helps if you can put some time and effort into design. Effective posters are cheap to make and are fun to do.
Tips for your poster
- Design and prepare a poster that is eye catching and colourful
- Use clear lettering
- Make sure the message is noticeable at a glance, too much information means clutter, which is off-putting
- Put the posters up in places where people will notice them
- Always have a name and contact details listed so that people know who is campaigning/ advertising and whom to contact for further information
Things to consider when making posters
- You may need special permission to hang your posters, although most libraries, schools and youth centres have notice boards
- Try getting free printing and photocopying done at schools, youth clubs, and community centres or at a parent's workplace
Organising a demonstration
Demonstrations can take many different forms and can be very imaginative and effective.They can be old style marches with banners or newer style demonstrations such as street theatre with music, drumming and costumes. The main thing to remember is that you send a clear message of what it is you are demonstrating for and against.
Tips for organising a demonstration
Decide on the type of demonstration: big or small. Smaller demonstrations are quick and easy to organise and may be more effective at a local level. Big demonstrations tend to be organised around issues that concern people throughout the country.
When deciding on the time and place, take into account where and when you will have the most effect. Good timing is all important in terms of when people can organise to meet, when the public will see you and take part and when it is best to target officials and decision makers.
When promoting the demonstration, keep in mind how you can use social networks, local media, and fliers or posters. Keep in mind the time needed to get organised and to rally support when picking the date.
Public demonstrations and the law
There are certain public restrictions placed by the law, for example the Public Order Bill. You may have to obtain permission from the Gardaí and Local Authorities.
Pickets usually take place after strike action. Picketing is an old, but effective form of protest. It dates back to the early days of the labour movement when workers would hold large signs and chant, usually in front of a targeted site. Pickets usually take place after strike action has been called by a trade union in agreement with the workers they represent.
Tips for Picketing
- Picketing usually involves chanting, singing, and sometimes using noisemakers.
- Every picket line has a picket captain who ensures that the line doesn't become sloppy and helps to keep up spirits.
- Picketers should use lots of signs.
- Picketers can encourage involvement from passers-by by getting them to honk their car horns in support of your cause.
- Pass out flyers during the picket so onlookers know what the issue is.
- A picket is also a good time to organise a petition campaign as a follow-up measure.