My Big Mouth: People power won’t always affect change, but it’s a vital part of our democracy

Comment by Kimberly Bond

Since the Coalition government came to power in 2010 there have been strikes and protests about all sorts of things – from tuition fees to the so-called ‘Bedroom Tax’ – it seems all it takes is a Conservative Prime Minister to fuel the fire.

But looking at all these strikes and protests from a non-political point of view could reveal a different side to ‘people power’.

I’ve been involved in three different protests since I started university in 2010 – the first was the tuition fee march when thousands of students came together from all over the country to protest against the proposed fee hike.

 The day itself was brilliant with lots of cheering, rousing speeches, chants – some of them which don’t bear repeating – and general togetherness from students who would normally act as arch enemies when representing their university.

While I enjoyed the actual protest and I had a personal reason to be involved, it was also my first big story as a student journalist and for me it was about the people.

 The fact that thousands of people were so angered by one idea that a group of middle-aged men had come up with was extraordinary.

Add to that the power that the students thought they held in their hands, a chance to actually change things and make a stand in history, it was a pretty mind-blowing day and one I will never forget.

Of course, when it got violent the group I’d travelled with melted away from the crowds and watched in awe from the other side of the river in awe as things changed for the worse.

I came away from that day feeling spirited and amazed, and since then I have twice had the chance to witness history take place in the form of protests that will probably mark communities forever.

In February of this year 1000 people from Stoke-on-Trent marched across the city to show their lack of confidence in their city council.

It dominated the headlines for a good few weeks and I found it made such good news because it really mattered to local people.

When I went along to cover the event it was again the people involved that made it for me.

Residents from all over the city came together for one reason and for two hours it didn’t matter about their differences – it was what they had in common that united them.

The Manchester teachers’ strike last week saw 4500 teachers and parents come together and marching through the streets for one cause.

When they came together  for a post-march rally the strength of feeling in that room was overwhelming and it once again struck me just how much good people power can do.

But I am a realist and I understand that protesting probably isn’t always going to affect change because at the end of the day the government does hold the power – that’s why we vote them in.

But every once in a while protests really have, and will continue to, change the course of history. 

Picture courtesy of PotatoJunkie via Flickr, with thanks.

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