Do protests matter?

worlds-most-pointless-protest-signsDo protests ever change anything?

I was listening to R4 yesterday about the forthcoming protest outside the Conservative Party conference and it left me wondering why they bother. I suspect that many people will feel better that they have got together with like-minded individuals and made their views known and that’s probably good.

However I wonder if anything substantive ever actually changes as a consequence? The Poll Tax, sorry “Community Charge”, might be cited as an example but there is loads of evidence that it was so unpopular that it would be abandoned anyway by whoever succeeded Thatcher. Years of CND protests and marches have left us with enough nuclear bombs to reduce the population of the earth to minus zero; the ‘Million Man March’ against Britain’s involvement in Iraq certainly did not achieve anything…

So, are marches nothing more than shows of solidarity that sooth the participants’ psyche (‘at least I did something’) or do they really influence future events/decisions?

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