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Can protests make a difference?

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In the wake of the North Lincolnshire refinery strikes, impressionist and long-time Greenpeace member Alistair McGowan set out to discover if protests can still make a difference.


McGowan has been a member of Greenpeace since the early 1990s and recently clubbed together with fellow protestors to buy a patch of land in the middle of the site of the proposed third Heathrow runway.


In his report, McGowan met other people trying to make a difference. People like Brian Haw, who has been camped out in front of the Houses of Parliament for the last seven years in protest of the Iraq war.


"I'm not into stunts," Haw told McGowan. "But all of us haven't done enough. Two million took to the streets [in protest of the war in 2003], from all sections of society. But the trouble is, they went home again."


"It is making a difference," said Haw of his vigil. "I've been told by people from all countries of the world, that it gives them hope."


But it's not just on the political margins that protest can be found. In the 1980s MP Clare Short made her name taking direct action against the pornography industry. But she told McGowan that, when it comes to protest, we should learn the lessons of political history.


"The French and the Russians had violent revolutions which achieved enormous historical change but at an enormous cost," she said.


But Short also predicted that, in future, the voices of dissent could get louder, saying: "In this next year or two, which is going to be much harder economically, the mood is going to change. People will come back to protest and those kinds of politics."


More information:
Government, citizens and rights site

Liberty guide to peaceful protest


But what do you think? Can raising your voice in protest still make a difference? Share your views.


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