A protest march is an accessible way to make your voice heard and bring attention to your cause. This article is specifically about the tactic of marching. Also make sure to check out our more general page on organising a protest action.
Whether or not your protest march will be covered in local/national/international news media depends on the number of people participating and the novelty of the cause that you are advocating. If it is something for which there already have been a lot of protests, you will need to step up your game to make the march interesting enough to cover.
Since a march is a moving protest, a lot of bystanders may see your action, but it is harder to start one-on-one conversations with them.
If you take pictures, record videos and livestream during march, so can reach additional people via social media.
A protest march is a relatively accessible action format, so it is a good way to get people who have never protested before involved. Make sure you have clear follow up actions though, so that participants of the march will take up more active roles within your movement after the march.
People who see your action as bystanders or hear about in in news media might also get involved. Note this is a very small percentage of the total number of people reached. You can improve this by handing out leaflets during the march and making it easy for people to find your website and get involved.
A protest march is usually not very disruptive. You are usually only taking up some space for a few hours. And because it is a moving protest, traffic will be able to continue their travels as you move away, though with a large number of participants this may take a while.
- You are temporarily taking up a certain physical space, depending on the number of people participating and duration of the march
- You are creating disturbance with noise
These are some ways to make it more disruptive: march on a frequent basis, march a longer distance, make more noise (for example, by asking people to bring pots and pans), or engage in cultural disruption (for example, march naked).
Because a protest march is not very disruptive generally speaking, it is unlikely that decision makers will feel forced to respond to your demands based on the disruption alone (though they may feel forced through public pressure as the result of your reach in news media). Being a relatively undisruptive tactic, this also means that the authorities are less likely to try to stop you by means of police force.
The tactic of marching to draw attention to a certain cause is very commonly used. Unless you add something special, a protest march is not very creative. This means that news media will be less interested, because it misses the aspect of novelty.
These are some ways to use creativity to make a march more interesting: wear special clothing, bring art objects (for example a brightly painted boat or paper mâché skeletons) or have a group of people play theatre.
Every action tactic requires certain resources. If you do not have access to these resources, you will need to do some capacity building.
- Organisers: You will need a few people to prepare the logistics (route, location, time), someone to communicate with the authorities, a group of people to promote the action, and wellbeing officers during the action.
- People willing to act: Since the impact of a protest march largely depends on the turnout, it is important to have a large group of people willing to participate in your action. Ideally, you already have a contact list of supporters. However, you can also grow your network by organising smaller actions and by building coalitions before the march.
- Materials: To communicate your message it is smart to ask participants to create protest banners and flags beforehand. You can also print them, but generally speaking, this will make your march look less authentic (as it becomes harder for people to differentiate you with astro turfing). If you have a large number of people, it is nice to have a way a sound installation and podium (for example, to give a speech or to play music). Since you will be moving, you could consider to use a moving podium (for example, a cargo bike or car). Medics will need to bring a first aid kit.
- Financial resources:
How to organise
1. Choose a time and location
The first step is to choose a time and location for your protest march. Make sure that the time and location are both convenient for as many people as possible. You also want to make sure that the location is easily accessible for the media.
2. Get a permit
If you want to march on a public street, you will need to get a permit from the local government. Make sure you do this well in advance, as it can take some time to process the permit.
3. Plan the route
The next step is to plan the route for your march. Make sure that the route is safe and easy to follow, and that it ends at a rally or protest site.
In the Global Nonviolent Action Database, you can find over 600 examples of protest marches around the globe.
How to contribute
This page is still being worked on. Feel free to add information!