Photo from the E15 Open House Occupation Facebook Page

Photo from the E15 Open House Occupation Facebook Page

 

In the last few years I have found myself increasingly disillusioned with the political system in this country and felt frustrated in my inability to be able to get involved in any way. I am a single mum, I look after my daughter during the day and work when she sleeps in the evenings. It leaves barely any time to get involved in campaigning, direct action or political systems.

I joined Twitter a few years ago to network with other designers and help build my design business. Through Twitter I started to hear more and more about protests that were happening around the world. The wonderful thing about Twitter and other social media platforms is that you can access an undercurrent of news that doesn’t penetrate the mainstream media. What I began to see was a growing network of anti-austerity movements and powerful individual voices gaining larger and larger audiences, direct communication, unfiltered through TV news teams or newspaper editors.

The False Economy website started a list of anti-cuts campaigns and events that were taking part all over the country. Without the time or resources to travel much with a toddler I started doing what I could online, I started following the wonderful campaigning group 38 Degrees, signing petitions and helping spread the word about events. I started watching the campaign videos posted to YouTube, everything from protest poems to flash mobs to organised rallies attended by people in their hundreds and thousands, sometimes millions. I became increasingly inspired by the bravery, anger and eloquence of the protest movement and decided to bring as many inspiring examples together into an online archive.

 

I wrote the following introduction to the Art of Protest site when I launched it just over a year ago, early in 2014.

 

In a time of ever-increasing inequality of wealth and opportunity and continual tightening of civil liberties, the need to protest is now more necessary than ever. We can all make a difference. You don’t have to be Edward Snowden to make your mark in the world. Over half a million people took a minute out of their day to sign a 38 Degrees petition when the coalition government tried to sell-off our national forests to private firms. People raised money to put adverts opposing the sell-off in national newspapers. In our tens of thousands we wrote to our MPs telling them to stop the sale. The Government had to listen to us and we won! Here is a list of all 38 Degrees achievements and all most of us did was sign an online petition to help make these things happen.

We did not vote in this coalition government and yet in a few short years they have sold off our Royal Mail and are privatising our National Health Service. They are cutting welfare support for the very poorest in our society and forcing many unable to work through disability into poverty. I’m ashamed to live in a society where those who are forced to claim benefits or visit food banks in order to feed themselves and their families are demonised by the government and the media. We must not let their lies and distortions corrupt our view of society and each other. We must not turn against each other at a time when we should be coming together in support and solidarity. I am angry. Let the Art of Protest thrive through 2014. Let us be inspired by the struggles of others. Let’s fight back!

The message remains the same, only now it is a more urgent message, more vital and even more necessary.

My hope is that by bringing together examples of creative and inspiring protests, people will see just how powerful they can be, not only as individuals taking a stand, but as part of a group, a community. There are so many examples of how communities have come together in support and solidarity. In March 2014 a small group of local residents in Queens Park in London came together in order to stop the police and bailiffs from evicting a pregnant mother and her child from their home. In September 2014 the Focus E15 Mothers group set up the E15 Social Centre in vacant council homes. These are just two of many inspiring examples of direct community action taking place in the UK every day.

The Art of Protest site has almost 300 examples of protests in a variety of forms, there are poems, songs, rallies, flash mobs, sit-ins, speeches and more, and the archive grows bigger every day.

 

Here are some of the most popular posts on the site:

 

Harry Leslie Smith makes an inspirational speech about the NHS at the Labour Party Conference (Sept 2014)

Ken Livingstone Speech – London Will Not Be Cowed. July 2005

Jack Monroe, Protesting the Benefit Cuts – South London People’s Assembly (Aug 2013)

Masked Pianist Inspires Protesters in Kiev

‘Somewhere in America’ Changing the World, One Word at a Time! | Get Lit (Nov 2014)

“Bread and Roses” from Pride (2014)

Bugger The Bankers – a song for our times! (Dec 2012)

Alex Dang – “What Kind of Asian Are You?” (NPS 2013)

Please have a look at the Art of Protest site, be angry, be inspired, be creative, be involved.

 

Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

Margaret Meade