Has a protest ever been successful?

The history of demonstrations

»TheStreet is our mass medium«, The writer Peter Weiß announced in 1968 in West Berlin before the Vietnam demonstration. And established the street as a place for the democratic dissemination of opinion at public gatherings. A demonstration (Latin for "demonstrare" to show) is a symbolic act from a sociological point of view. Since the Enlightenment, the street has served as a powerful place for a bourgeois public, as a space of democracy, where opinions can be freely negotiated, civil rights can be claimed and political messages can be physically displayed. Moving something with resistance: as early as March 1848, 500 students protested against reactionary politics Wartburg Festival demonstrated. But demos did not become a mass phenomenon until the 1960s. A small outline.


The 60s: The Civil Rights Movement in the United States

Demonstrations with the civil rights movement in the USA, which campaigned for equality for African-Americans, originated as popular mass phenomena. Since the end of the American Civil War 1865 Slavery was abolished in the USA, but African-Americans remained oppressed in the southern states because of legal racial segregation. Separate seats in buses or separate toilets for whites and blacks were part of everyday life. Under the leadership of Martin Luther King took place on August 28, 1963 the "March on Washington for Work and Freedom " held, which is considered to be one of the high points of the civil rights movement in the USA. At the political demonstration gathered about 200.000 People both white and black for a peaceful protest in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Martin Luther King held his famous at the event "I have a dream"Speech that outlines the vision of equal coexistence for whites and blacks. Nonviolent resistance with civil disobedience was the maxim. And the movement was successful: the march resulted in the adoption of the Civil Rights Acts1964, which abolished the legal racial segregation (for example in buses).


Vietnam War & Counter Culture

The mood in the United States was heated in the 1960s, and not just domestically. Foreign policy conflicts such as the Vietnam War also sparked the protest movement. Bombing raids on North Vietnam without a declaration of war and the use of chemical weapons allowed the peace movement to gain strength. Around 100,000 young people, mostly men, demonstrated on October 21, 1967 at the "March on the Pentagon« in Washington D.C. for the unconditional withdrawal of the US military from Vietnam. Many burned their military passports and draft orders. The demonstration marked a turning point: Thousands of young men in the United States refused to do military service, so that the anti-war movement grew stronger worldwide. The development paved the way Counterculture of the hippie movement according to their slogan »make love, not war«, Which consciously defied social conventions. Peace movement, free love, drug use, Far Eastern religions and sexual freedom were just a few key points of the liberal lifestyle.


The 1968 student protests

The German students - like their fellow students in the USA - demanded an end to the Vietnam War. The 68er disrupted university events and blocked traffic with peaceful ones Sit-inswhich led to more equitable university reform. In resorting to the left-liberal and neo-Marxist Theories of Frankfurt School as well as the American hippie movement, they broke with civic conventions: Free sexuality and casual clothing were the order of the day. Most of all they counteracted the conservative gender image of the "ideal family" of the 1950s. Incidentally, critics saw the movement as the cause of the increasing divorce rate. The 68 movement found its drive in the student union »Socialist German Student Union " (SDS) with well-known representatives such as Rudi Dutschke, Dieter Kunzelmann and Bernd Rabehl. They challenged the mainstream press. In an attack on Berlin's Ku'damm on Maundy Thursday 1968, Rudi Dutschke, the figurehead of the student movement, was seriously injured by a shot in the head. Previously, the journalists had the BILD newspaper loudly declared the sociology student who fled the GDR to be »enemy number 1«.

The attack overflowed the conflict: the peaceful protest movement turned into a solid student revolt. On Easter 1968, street battles, some of them violent, broke out in 27 cities. Tens of thousands of young people threw stones into Springer branches and set their delivery vehicles on fire. The Easter riots were among the largest demonstrations the young Federal Republic had seen. Almost four weeks later, the planned ones offered Emergency Laws the grand coalition cause further unrest. It is true that the emergency regulation should guarantee the state's ability to act in crisis situations; Left-wing students, however, feared that the government might restrict basic democratic rights. On May 11, 1968 around protested 60,000 people at the Star march on Bonn against their introduction. A final high point of the 68s: The student movement subsided as early as 1969, as they were falling out more and more internally. A part saw only the protest with arms as an adequate answer to the political conflicts, from which terrorist groups like the RAF emerged. Other activists like Rudi Dutschke founded the party Alliance90 /The green or made it like Joschka Fischer in the Bundestag.


The 70s: The anti-nuclear movement

In the 1970s, a new protest movement formed in the wake of the oil crisis, which demonstrated against the use of nuclear energy through peaceful rallies and sit-ins: the Anti-nuclear movement. It protested for the nuclear phase-out and grew far beyond the political approaches of the traditional left activists of the 68s. Linked to this was the emergence of a young subculture that represented an environmentally conscious lifestyle. It's hard to believe: The world's first successful anti-nuclear initiative actually began 1958 in California and directed against the nuclear power project at the Bodega Bay north of San Francisco. The historian Joachim Radkau sees the German anti-nuclear movement as the "largest and most thoughtful public discourse in the Federal Republic" because of its continuity. In a very short time, the movement managed to mobilize large crowds - among other things because the federal government opposed mass demonstrations such as in Wyhl (1975), Brokdorf (1976/77), Kalkar (1977), Gorleben (1978/79) and Bonn (1979) proceeded in an authoritarian manner. The protests around that were a high point Gorleben nuclear waste storage facility dar: In the spring of 1979 around 100,000 people demonstrated in Hanover under the slogan "Gorleben should live". The opponents of nuclear power prevailed with nonviolence. Ecological protests also caused a sensation on the streets in the 2000s. Be it the argument about the railway stationStuttgart 21 (2009) or the protests in Hambach Forest (2018) against lignite mining, sit-ins are still popular forms of protest today.


Demonstrations & Social Media

Demonstrations and public exchanges of views experienced a new thrust from the 2000s onwards with the emergence of Social media. How much Facebook & Co. can act as catalysts of a social protest movement is shown by the example of »Women’s March on Washington ". With the protest march for women's and human rights, predominantly women demonstrated on January 21, 2017 in Washington D.C. one day after the official inauguration of President Donald Trump. The starting point of the protests was a Facebook event: Because the Hawaiian Teresa Shook Believed Trump's statements to be misogynistic and racist, she organized a protest march against his policies on Facebook after the presidential election on November 9, 2016. The result was record-breaking: around one gathered in Washington alone half a million people. At the same time there were solidarity marches in 670 cities, including Paris, London, Berlin, New York and Vienna.


Digital demos: #MeToo

Social media actually change and problematize social conflicts. In today's digital world, public riots can start with a hashtag. As an actress Alyssa Milano the hashtag on Twitter in October 2017 in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal #Me too used, it sparked a worldwide sexism debate on an unprecedented scale. Milano wanted to encourage women to use the hashtag to draw attention to sexual harassment in everyday life, which should show the size of the problem. With success: #MeToo went viral and trended in over 85 nations. #MeToo is a rare example of the impact of social media: while the Internet turmoil seldom leads to political consequences, the hashtag even made it into the EU Parliament. In Germany, #MeToo led, for example, to the establishment of the »Trust Office Against Sexual Harassment«. They show how problematic the role of social media can be Chemnitz riots in 2018. False rumors in the social media after the city festival played a major role in mobilizing the right-wing extremist scene for their violent hunts. Social media repeatedly come up against the limits of the democratic exchange of views. This makes it all the more important in 2019 to differentiate fake news from truthful news.