The problem with protests is that they don’t achieve anything. This is so much the case that until fairly recently I, like several people I know, believed them to be a complete waste of time. I’d watched enough news reports to know that demonstrations rarely make their way into them. And I also understood from my knowledge of global history that regardless of size, they rarely lead to more than civil disobedience, if anything at all. Disillusioned with a political system that too often ignores the issues that affect me and those I care about, I felt utterly powerless to change anything, and believed that no matter how loudly I shouted, my voice, like many others, would never be heard. But then something incredible happened; Donald Trump won the US presidency election, and suddenly I felt called to resist.
On 21 January 2017 I attended the Women’s March on Washington – London, which coincided with Trump’s first official day of presidency. Whilst the Women’s March wasn’t specifically billed as an anti-trump movement, many of the causes that it represented were deemed under threat from his administration. This was the first protest that I’d ever been part of, and it was here, marching through Central London with 100,000 like-minded individuals, that I realised exactly why protests matter. It isn’t because they directly change anything – they don’t. But in spite of this lack of immediate impact, what they do achieve is a strong feeling of hope that change is possible. As US academic and author Roger Berkowitz points out, ‘A unified and sovereign government combined with a disempowered citizenry poses the greatest danger of totalitarianism’ (LARB, March 2017).
It’s true that a few thousand people marching through our streets tomorrow is unlikely to put an end to the circus of horrors that Trump’s administration is making of the US. But if these gatherings can empower us to continue campaigning against his ignorance and hate, and in doing so help to hinder the feeling of despondency that we in the West are increasingly susceptible to, then it’ll be a job well done in my opinion.
For information on how to get involved in tomorrow’s demonstrations, visit www.stoptrump.org.uk.