Former Senator Douglas Roche on the power of protests (Douglas Roche, “Stand up and speak out for what’s right: Mass protests have the power to bring about social change,” Edmonton Journal, 24 March 2010): “When the public gets mad, politicians… back down. When the kitchen gets too hot, they run outside gasping for fresh air.”
Citizen protest has the power to cause change, says former Senator (and former Canadian Ambassador for Disarmament) Doug Roche:
…Prime Minister Stephen Harper underwent a metamorphosis to instant wisdom when his political base rebelled against the proposed de-sexing of O Canada. And while birth control programs have a built-in controversy, Harper, when he saw the backlash against proposed banning of them in foreign aid programs, quickly retreated to the status quo….
While there are ambiguous effects in some protests, it is clear that mass protests have brought great changes in the past. Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent marches obtained the independence of India. The U.S. civil rights movement became unstoppable when Rosa Parks wouldn’t give up her seat on a bus and Martin Luther King Jr. marched to Memphis, Tenn. To stop apartheid, Nelson Mandela went to jail in South Africa for 27 years and came out a hero and future president. William Wilberforce, an otherwise obscure British politician, developed a worldwide following two centuries ago by exercising the simple notion that slavery is inherently evil.
Today, Roche argues, global security issues need the attention of concerned citizens:
Massive poverty is destabilizing regional societies with global repercussions. The existence of 23,000 nuclear weapons, many of them on hair-trigger alert, threatens the security of every inhabitant of the planet. The violations of human rights of men, women and children in many parts of the world are a blow against the intricately connected humanity everywhere….
I’m talking about standing up and speaking out for what’s right and wrong in the world. That’s why I’ll be joining thousands of protesters against nuclear weapons for a march in New York on May 2 to the United Nations Building from Times Square. One voice multiplied many times may get results.