In a democratic state, people have the right to raise their voices through peaceful protest if they think any policy or law is against the constitution. Our society has progressed in many ways because of many brave men and women who voiced their protests when things went wrong.
Some of them were staged to show solidarity and support in the form of marches, while many others were conducted to defeat a rigid political regime. Although most of the protests in the past have been covered by the media, some didn’t receive enough attention. Here we have listed out 10 powerful protests from the past that made an impact in society.
1. Sudan’s former president Omar al-Bashir’s thirty-year regime was overthrown after one year of protest by the Sudanese people along with the Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), predominantly led by women.
The Sudanese people showed the world how to dethrone a 30-year-old powerful regime.
In December 2018, the common Sudanese citizens and Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA), a group of people from different professions, came out to protest against Sudan’s president, Omar al-Bashir. One of the main highlights of the protest was women from different backgrounds and ages actively participated in the protest, making up a whopping 70% of the protesters.
So, what triggered the citizens to go against their president? One of the root causes was the economic crisis. The people of Sudan were struggling with higher living costs and the economic collapse of the country due to years of US sanctions put on them.
Their frustration and disappointment forced them to march in the street. But the movement which started for better economic reforms agenda shifted completely in January 2019 to demand the resignation of their long-time president. The people of Sudan needed a change in leadership and they achieved it.
Ultimately, after 12 months of protests, President Omar al-Bashir was overthrown by the military and was taken into custody. (source)
2. In August 1989, citizens of three Baltic nations – Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia – formed a human chain across a distance of 670 km to protest against USSR rule.
In 1989, people of the Baltic nations protested against the USSR’s oppressive regime peacefully and uniquely.
On August 23, 1989, nearly two million inhabitants of three Baltic countries – Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia – made a human chain by holding hands, which spanned over 670 km across the three nations. To understand the non-violent protest, we need to go a bit deeper into history.
The Baltic demonstration was staged to draw world attention to the 1939 signing of the non-aggression Molotov Ribbentrop Pact, which allowed Stalin to invade three Baltic countries without any interference from Hitler.
The entire protocol was against international law, but the totalitarian, Stalin, never cared for rule of law. When the Soviet Union ultimately invaded the Baltic states, citizens had no choice but to live under the cruel communist rule.
Within seven months of the protest, Lithuania became the first nation to declare independence, and by the end of 1991, all three countries gained their independence. (source)
3. In 2017, Lebanese women protested against a rape law that allowed the rapists to escape from charges by marrying the victim. They protested by hanging 31 wedding gowns from nooses in front of Beirut Beach. The rape law was abolished in 2017.
In 2017, Lebanese women activists set up a protest against a gruesome law in their country, which provided an escape to the rapist from prosecution by marrying the victim.
Activists hung 31 wedding dresses from nooses between the palm trees in front of Beirut Beach to push the government to scrape down the misogynist Article 522 of the law, which deals with rape and assault cases in Lebanon.
Under the article, which was introduced in 1940, a person can face up to seven years of a prison sentence if found guilty of rape charges. But, the loophole in the law allowed in many cases for the rapist to not be convicted.
It was not the first demonstration. Previously, campaigners staged protests against the controversial law in 2015 in which women were wearing blood-covered wedding dresses and bandages outside the parliament house.
“There are 31 days in a month, and every single day a woman may be raped and forced to marry her rapist,” Alia Awada, a member of the non-governmental organization, Abaad, mentioned to the reporters.
The diligent efforts of many activists advocating against the discriminatory rape law were successful. After months of protests, Article 522 was abolished by the Lebanese parliament in August 2017. (source)
4. In 1975, 90% of Iceland’s women of different ages and occupations protested against gender-biased laws in their nation by gathering together in the capital city to demonstrate. Iceland’s parliament approved an equal pay law after one year.
Iceland’s women set an example for thousands of women around the world by claiming their basic rights successfully from the people in power through a peaceful protest.
On 24 October 1975, 90% of women in Iceland abandoned their daily activities and went on a strike to raise their voices for equal rights to men. Their campaign forced various professional institutions, like banks, factories, and some shops to close down, as many fathers had no choice but to stay at their houses with their children.
Some of them took their kids to the workplace as well. But, what prompted this massive strike by women, which impacted every aspect of daily life in the Nordic island nation?
Icelandic women got voting privileges back in 1915, only behind the Finish and the Kiwis. But when it comes to parliament seats, only nine women were elected over the next 60 years.
Shockingly, in 1975, the Icelandic parliament had only a 5% female occupancy, which was quite low as compared to other Nordic nations with between 16% and 23%. This was one of the biggest sources of frustration and anger. Apart from that, discrimination in salary was another issue women were marching for.
The gender-biased attitude of the society forced them to take a stand through the protest known as “Women’s Day Off,” where 25,000 people gathered in the capital city of Reykjavik to rally. After a year, Iceland’s parliament approved a law ensuring equal pay. and five years later, they had the world’s first democratically elected female president. (source)
5. In September 1965, Filipino-American farmworkers refused to do their grape-picking job and organized a strike. After five years of a boycott, the growers finally agreed to provide a pay raise, health benefits, and a better work environment to the workers.
Grapes, a beloved fruit of many Americans, became a news headline in the United States in 1965 for an upsetting reason.
In September 1965, over 2,000 farmworkers, predominantly Filipino-Americans, refused to go to their daily grape-picking jobs in the valley north of Bakersfield, California because of too low of wages and a poor work environment.
The movement was started by Larry Itliong, a labor organizer, along with the National Farm Workers Association’s founders Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta.
Eventually, they formed an organization named United Farm Workers and called for a boycott of grapes, which gathered lots of support. People stopped buying grapes, and numerous packets used to rot at the port with no one to load them.
The boycott was working for the workers, and on the other side, the growers were getting frustrated.
After five years of the so-called “Delano Grape Strike,” farmworkers were given a contract ensuring higher wages and employment benefits. A few years later, their movement led to the establishment of the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. (source)