Public Protest


Public protest is direct action that uses many of the tactics in this toolkit and applies them to a specific target, for a specific goal.


You can coordinate a march, a rally, a street protest, a picket line or another live event that gathers a group of like-minded people to come together and advocate (safely, nonviolently and legally) for an issue they believe in. Public protests can attract bystanders, generate lots of attention for your cause and put pressure on your target.

To be willful is to refuse “to give way, to give up, to give up your way…. We might need to get in the way if we are to get anywhere,” writes feminist and queer theorist, Sara Ahmed.

It takes courage to be willful, to refuse to give way. But courage comes from the support of those who share your cause. When Leshia Evans stood her ground at a Black Lives Matter rally in Baton Rouge, Louisiana she found courage in her faith and in the Movement.


After a shooter at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killed 17 people on February 14, 2018, young people across the country organized for gun control. A group of Parkland survivors began the group Never Again MSD to campaign for comprehensive gun legislation reform.

Never Again MSD organized the March for Our Lives, a movement that hosted 800+ marches worldwide with over 1 million participants. The group offers tools to plan local actions against gun violence.

Simultaneously, the Women’s March Youth EMPOWER group helped to organize more than 2,500 school walkouts across the US to demand gun reform. The group provides a toolkit for planning a walkout, which can be tailored to any cause!

In March 2015 young people from across Wales led a piece of direct action to ensure the Welsh Government kept its promise to prioritise education in its prevention measures to address violence against girls and women. Supported by Citizens Cymru, over 40 young people delivered personalised Valentine Cards to every Welsh Assembly Member which included three hand-written statements collected from over 1000 students in school assemblies on why they needed a real relationships education. The cards were sealed with a lipstick kiss to connect to the Red My Lips campaign (a worldwide protest to raise awareness of sexual violence and victim blaming). After the action, a twitter campaign followed. Many Assembly Members from across Wales tweeted their support of the campaign and praised young people’s creativity

The Women’s March

“On January 21, 2017, people of all backgrounds–women and men and gender nonconforming people, young and old, of diverse faiths, differently abled, immigrants and indigenous–came together, 5 million strong, on all seven continents of the world. We were answering a call to show up and be counted as those who believe in a world that is equitable, tolerant, just and safe for all, one in which the human rights and dignity of each person is protected and our planet is safe from destruction. Grounded in the nonviolent ideology of the Civil Rights movement, the Women’s March was the largest coordinated protest in U.S. history and one of the largest in world history.”


But you don’t need 5 million people to show up in order for your public protest to have an impact!

In 2012, as part of SPARK’s campaign to try to convince Teen Vogue to promise to never Photoshop girls and to commit to diversity in their magazine, staged a “mock runway” in front of the Conde Nast building in Times Square, NYC where Teen Vogue is published to raise awareness about the need to show girls as they really look, without digital altering.

Some tips if you are planning a public protest:

  • Articulate the goal of your protest: What exactly needs to change and why. Make sure everyone on the planning, executing and participating sides all are on the same page
  • Decide who needs to hear your message and find the best location to make sure those people hear you
  • Foster partnerships! Connect with local organizations or schools to help plan and manage the event
  • Be safe and legal! Research what kinds of permits you might need to use public space and possibly amplified sound (if you need it). Make sure you communicate to everyone at the protest that it is a peaceful, non-violent gathering. Some good guidelines for participants on how to stay safe at a protest HERE
  • Troubleshoot what to do if your opposition shows up to counter-protest and how you will safely, legally and non-violently address them
  • Include contact information on posters, flyers or signs so folks know how to join you after the event

Here are some more powerful examples of direct action:

@wegiveconsent was a Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr campaign led by two Year 8 students from Toronto, Canada to get the topic of consent in the Ontario Health Education Curriculum.

Girlguiding UK have organised campaigns for a ‘better sex education’. Find out how you can get involved to take action.

OBJECT campaigns for better representation of women and girls in the media.

Read about dozens of feminist change-making projects around the world, supported by the Frida Young Feminist Fund.

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