Pro/Con: Is protesting productive?

Protest posters at The Capitol in D.C. after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Protest posters at The Capitol in D.C. after the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Stella Muzin

Surrounded by nearly 300,000 supporters of Israel from across the United States, I stood proud chanting “Never Again” at the March for Israel rally, voicing my solidarity with Israel. Chants echoed through the National Mall, calling upon officials from both the House and Senate to advocate for U.S. aid for Israel, demand the immediate return of the hostages and condemn rising antisemitism amid the Israel-Hamas war.

From the outside, it is no secret that protests do not appear productive—I mean, how could rowdy crowds of people shouting their opinions in the street effect any change? However, when considering both the short and long term impacts of protesting, they are in fact productive.

In the short term, protests grab the attention of authorities, whether it is the amount of activists protesting or the issues themselves that they are protesting. Initially, protests function as signals to authorities, persuading them into changing their behavior until they make changes. In the long term, the attention that the protests draw from authorities manifests itself into action. 

An example of a short term impact can be found in the March for Israel rally, which convened on Nov. 14, is marked in U.S. history as the largest pro-Israel gathering.

On Oct. 20, the Biden administration proposed $14 billion in military and humanitarian assistance for Israel as part of a supplemental funding package. Pledging the enactment of the package, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that he, along with the three other members of the U.S. Congress at the rally, would “not rest until you [supporters of Israel] get the assistance you need.” 

The long term impact, however, can be found in the months following the rally, when Schumer and the Israel rally’s calls for change reached congress. Although it is awaiting approval from the House of Representatives, on Feb. 13, the Senate approved the foreign aid package for Israel, further solidifying the U.S. government’s support of Israel as a result of the hundreds of thousands of protestors who attended the March for Israel rally. 

Let’s take the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movements as another example. Triggered by the death of George Floyd on June 1, 2020, BLM protests spread like wildfire across the United States, and ignited a call for justice around the world. In doing so, major changes were made in policing, government, education, entertainment, and more. 

On June 4, once Former Mayor of Philadephia Jim Kenney’s attention was grabbed by the BLM protests, he established a commission called “Pathways to Reform, Transformation, and Reconciliation” to “advance public safety and racial equity,” representing “a formal commitment to enact a long-lasting reform agenda.” By formally enacting this change in response to local protests, Kenney is validating the suffering, pain, and outrage of the protestors, and taking steps towards justice for the future of African-American communities.

Nearly three weeks after Kenney’s commission, on June 22, another unprecedented change  was made to government funding of the police as a result of the protests, marking a transition from the short to long term impacts. As an activism organization, one of BLM’s 7 Demands, explicitly, is to defund the police. BLM protests led many U.S. cities to cut police department funding severely, like the Los Angeles Budget Committee, who withdrew $133 million from the Los Angeles Police Department

Setting aside the short and long term changes, protests themselves are productive in uniting protestors under the cause they are fighting for and the values that cause embodies. Such unity elicits a sense of hope for the protestors—regardless of whether it ultimately makes change or doesn’t, they have one another’s backs in their fight for justice. 

Without protests, society’s demands for justice would not be heard by authorities. As a result, society’s progress towards a world free of injustice would be subdued; the world wouldn’t be as good of a place. Society must continue to fight for its beliefs in the only way it knows how: through words and actions.


In my early high school years, I was extremely involved in protesting. I went to protests for numerous issues; March for Our Lives, Black Lives Matter, the overturning of Roe v. Wade and many other political issues that I am passionate about. But since then I have recognized that protesting might not be the most effective method of actually creating change. 

Nowadays, protests almost never have strong validity or authenticity because of the growth of social media. In recent years, protesting has become an internet phenomenon, particularly in the D.C. area considering CESJDS is a close 30 minute drive from our nation’s capital. Protests used to be filled with people educated and passionate about issues, but due to protest posters being posted all over apps like Instagram and the influence of content creators, those uneducated on topics often protest for them purely based on claims they see on social media.  

Social media allows creators to promote posts that talk about big issues in a way we have never seen before. An influencer can go on TikTok and talk about a social issue, and the video will get thousands of views. However, posts like this usually don’t actually contain a lot of substantive or reliable information, as they are short and often don’t cite their sources. Primarily, posts like this really only serve to excite and amplify an audience. 

A significant example of people protesting on issues they are uneducated on is the “Free Palestine” protests that have become popular since Oct. 7. Noa Tishby, an influencer, author and activist uploaded a video to her Instagram showing her experience at one of these protests. In the video, she goes up to protestors at the Sundance Film Festival and asks them to explain what they are protesting for and the meaning of what they are chanting. Everyone who she talks to in this video either says they don’t know the meaning of what they are saying or they make false claims that they say they saw online. This is just one example of how social media has completely changed protesting, making it ineffective and sometimes detrimental. 

Additionally, many protests in our modern world simply come with meaningless chanting. Although slogans can be powerful, chanting them over and over again is much less likely to create change than other avenues. 

For instance, the chant “No more silence, end gun violence” is popular at gun control protests. Although it isn’t a negative chant, yelling it over and over again is unlikely to have an impact as there is no suggestion being made of how to make progress.

As Nick Srnicek and Alex Williams say in their book “Inventing the Future: Postcapitalism and a World Without Work,” marches and protests are more habit than solution. All U.S. citizens have the ability to protest due to our first amendment rights, however we have started to overuse this power. 

Protests now come with a mob mentality and often just attract individuals who want to be a part of something and are looking for an excuse to be loud and voice their frustration, rather than make a difference. 

Although protesting isn’t the most effective way to create change, protests and rallies can create community around loss and pain. I attended the March for Israel and while I enjoyed the experience, I knew that it was unlikely political action would be taken as a result of the rally. However, I enjoyed being surrounded with my community in such a difficult time. If you are looking for this form of connection with other like-minded individuals, protesting may be the right avenue for you.

However, if you are looking to actually make change on a social issue important to you, there are much more effective routes you can take. For example, you can write to your state legislatures or even get involved in a local campaign. By helping a local candidate with your same ideals become elected, you will be able to make more significant change, considering that an elected official will be in a position of much more power and your ideas have a higher chance of being implemented.  

Overall, I understand why many people are passionate about protesting. However, I don’t believe it to be the most effective route to actually create change. If you are looking for a community-like environment of like minded individuals, some protests may be for you. However, if you want to make a difference, I would try a more effective avenue.

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About the Contributors
Stella Muzin
Stella Muzin, Editor-in-Chief
Stella Muzin is eager to continue her work on Lion’s Tale as Editor-in-Chief after previously serving as Arts and Entertainment Editor. She's excited to continue designing spreads, editing articles and working with the rest of the staff. Outside of the newspaper, Stella is on the JDS Debate team and Swim team and is the president of the Political Discussion Club. In Stella’s free time you can find her binging reality TV or spending time with her family and friends. She's looking forward to a year of growth and improvement for the Lion’s Tale and can’t wait to be a part of it.  
Maya Greenblum
Maya Greenblum, News Editor
Maya is thrilled to serve as one of The Lion’s Tale’s News Editor for the upcoming term. She is ready to inform and educate our readers on current affairs and events, and uncover any obscured news updates lying within our broader community. Apart from the newspaper, Maya is one of the presidents of the biomedical club, is a member of the CESJDS choir groups Shir Madness and Chorale, and plays on the girls varsity tennis team. Maya is excited for another amazing year on staff with new and former staff members, and for many more issues to come.  

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