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Are protests necessary for social change?

Protests have played an important role in our society in relation to civil rights and social change. After widespread attendance at larger protests like the Women’s March, DAPL, and March for Science, as well as localized Black Lives Matter rallies after the killings of Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, and Michael Brown, critics and supporters alike are wondering whether marching actually changes anything. You decide — are protests necessary for social change?


Researchers Examine The Psychology Of Protest Movements

Those Raised Fists Still Resonate, 50 Years Later

The Civil Rights Landscape Today for People of Color

Additional resources to think about

The Long, Necessary History Of 'Whiny' Black Protesters At College
To many people, the recent protests cropping up in colleges across the country represent a new generation of students that are over-sensitive and entitled. But according to one reporter, these demands aren't new.

These California Teens are Ready to Enact Change After the Parkland Shooting
This PBS NewsHour video from the Student Reporting Labs shows how California teens are encouraging protest on both sides of the gun restriction argument.

What Protests Can (And Can't) Do
This article from FiveThirtyEight talks about the statistical data related to protests, social change, and awareness in the wake of protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Protesting is as important as voting
This piece from Brookings talks about protest and its place in the American political process.

How to turn protest into powerful change | TEDEd
Eric Liu outlines three strategies for peacefully turning awareness into action and protest into durable political power.

Why Lawmakers Are Trying to Increase Penalties for Protesting
Toussaint talks to Alicia Garza, cofounder of Black Lives Matter, on whether or not protesting can go too far in this episode of America From Scratch.


Who created this message?

  • What kind of “text” is it?
  • How similar or different is it to others of the same genre?
  • What are the various elements (building blocks) that make up the whole?


What creative techniques are used to attract my attention?

  • What do you notice (about the way the message is constructed)? 
  • What’s the emotional appeal?
  • What makes it seem “real?”
  • What's the emotional appeal? Persuasive devices used?

How might different people understand this message differently from me?

  • How many other interpretations could there be?
  • How could we hear about them?
  • How can you explain the different responses?

What lifestyles, values, and points of view are represented in, or omitted from, this message?

  • What type of person is the reader/watcher/listener invited to identify with?
  • What ideas or perspectives are left out?
  • How would you find what’s missing?
  • What judgments or statements are made about how we treat other people?


Why is this message being sent?

  • What's being sold in this message? What's being told? 
  • Who is served by or  benefits from the message
    – the public?
    – private interests?
    – individuals?
    – institutions?

5 Key Questions of Media Literacy used with permission from the Center for Media Literacy.
Copyright 2002-2021, Center for Media Literacy,


Are protests necessary for social change?

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