One of the cornerstones of many modern democracies is the right for people to protest in peaceful ways. This allows the public to demonstrate their feelings towards the government, argue against controversial groups or people, and enact change in society that they feel is much needed.
Such protests can come in various forms. Sometimes they take the form of mass gatherings of people peacefully coming together to show their displeasure, while in other cases they might involve some level of violence as members take direct action to ensure that their voices are heard by those in power or engage in civil disobedience. It’s even possible for individuals to protest all by themselves to make a statement. Whatever the case, protests are an important way for people to get meaningful change and play a huge role in allowing the public to demonstrate for causes that they truly believe in. Unfortunately, not every country has the same attitude towards protestors and not all of those engaging in such rallies are non-violent, which can lead to some violent and extreme situations that put many people in danger. In nations where people don’t have many rights and can’t vote for their governments in democratic elections, protests can become even more violent and dangerous.
10 FEMEN’s Istanbul Demonstrations
FEMEN is a radical group that seeks to stop the discrimination and exploitation of woman in conservative and religious countries. They were founded in Ukraine but became famous in 2012 thanks to a series of protests in Istanbul that saw women parade through the streets while topless. This lack of clothing automatically created a huge amount of controversy in Turkey, but it was the imagery of the make-up worn by the demonstrators that was so extreme as it portrayed the effects of abuse and acid attacks that many women had suffered in the country in recent times.
9 Pyotr Pavlensky’s Street Protest
The Red Square in Moscow, Russia, has played host to thousands of protests and demonstrations over the past few centuries. At the political center of the country and adjacent to the Kremlin, it is the perfect place to grab attention and make a significant statement. This is exactly what Pyotr Pavlensky did in 2013, when he nailed his own scrotum to the cobbles after stripping naked in response to the harsh treatment of people by the police. The act drew responses from other prominent protestors in Russia, though the police eventually arrested him after he received some medical treatment.
8 Kent State Protest
It wasn’t the protest at Kent State, Ohio, that was all that extreme but rather the response by the National Guard. A group of students at the university led a demonstration against the war in Vietnam and a faculty building was set on fire during the events. The army force was then called in to control the situation and ensure that no more damage was done to any other building. They fired 61 rounds in just 13 seconds, killing four people and injuring another nine. Many of those hit weren’t even involved in the protest and all were unarmed. This led to widespread protest and strikes from other students across the country and investigations into the handling of the event by officials.
7 Lush Human Performance Exhibit
Jacqueline Traide, a 24-year-old performance artist, took part in a protest at the London flagship Lush store that saw her subjected to the same treatment that animals go through during testing of cosmetic products. This involved her being tied up with straps, having her hair shaved off from her head and force-fed. During the 10-hour event, which was streamed live on the internet, Traide also had chemicals poured into her eyes and electrodes attached to her body. This was all done in the hope of creating extreme imagery that would grab the public’s attention and force them to discuss the issue of animal testing.
6 Manus Island Refugee Protest
Australia has drawn a lot of criticism in the past few months and years for its treatment of refugees fleeing violence in places such as Syria. One of the most controversial things they do is house those coming to the country in the detention center on Manus Island. This has led to many of those seeking asylum protesting over safety fears and the fact they are provided with many of the things that they need. In 2015, 25 of those at the center sewed their mouths shut in a hunger strike that they hoped would draw attention to their cause and cause changes.
5 Shark Fin Performance Demonstration
Alice Newstead took extreme action when she wanted to bring the practice of shark finning to the public’s attention. This is a particularly harmful activity that sees sharks having their fins cut off before they are released back into the sea. She set up a special exhibition at Regent’s Street in London and had shark hooks pierced through her back as she was hung up above the ground. The 26-year-old explained how she had been pierced several times with hooks on different parts of her body and hoped that this demonstration would help to combat shark finning, which has dramatically lowered the population of the species.
4 Egyptian Arranged Marriage Protest
Although most people are free to marry whomever they want, there are still some places in the world where marriages are arranged and effectively force two people to live together for the rest of their lives. When a 25-year-old in Egypt was told he would not be allowed to marry a woman from a lower social class than himself, despite loving her and petitioning his father for two years, he took drastic action. The protest saw him cut off his own "member" rather than go through with the arranged wedding and doctors were unable to reattach it.
3 Self-Immolation Of Thích Quảng Đức
Thích Quảng Đức is probably one of the most famous figures to have ever lived despite the fact that so few actually know his name. He was a Buddhist monk who burned himself to death in Saigon in protest against the persecution of and discrimination against Buddhists in Vietnam. His self-immolation took place at a busy intersection and was caught on camera as he slowly burned to death without moving or making any sound.
2 Soweto Uprising
The Soweto Uprising was a protest by black students in South Africa on the 16th of June in 1976. The people involved were demonstrating against the introduction of Afrikaans as a language that would have to be taught in high school and spoken 50% of the time in class. This, along with wider apartheid issues, caused a great deal of conflict within the country and thousands of students took to the streets in Soweto. Police responded to the protests in a brutal manner and out of the 20,000 that attended, at least 176 were killed as they were shot by police.
1 Greensboro KKK Rally
The Greensboro KKK rally, often known as the Greensboro massacre, was a march that saw members of the Communist Workers’ Party clash with the Ku Klux Klan and the American Nazi Party. The armed confrontation led to the deaths of four members of the CWP and another person as the racist groups fired into the protestors with shotguns and handguns. The CWP had been marching to campaign for workers’ rights of the black textile workers who were walking in the area. Although several people were arrested and charged, all were acquitted by juries.