‘It turns out that social science has a lot to say about which protests are likely to be effective. My research shows that social movements can indeed create long-lasting political change.’ (Mazumder, Harvard, 2017)

‘Flag-waving populists’ are harming the cause? Does she mean those many thousands, women, men, young, older, peaceable, smiling, dog and bairn-accompanied, marchers at AUOB events in every town across the country? It seems she does.

Are they ‘populists?’ Really? Aren’t populists, these days, generally thought of as right-wing, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, militaristic, chaps, like UKIP, Brexit? As for the Indy marchers, aren’t they often opposed to nuclear weapons, wars, migration, poverty, fracking and in favour of a more equal society?

Do street marches harm good causes? What about the UK suffragettes or civil rights marches in the US and Northern Ireland? Did they reduce the chances of emancipation? What about #MeToo or Black Lives Matter? What about the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong? The latter have become quite violent. Does Waddell condemn them? What about the climate change protests this year in the UK? Waddell does seem to allow that these might be a good thing:

‘[W]hat a fitting day last week’s mini heatwave made for a climate change protest.’


Is the Scottish independence movement the only one in history where street protest is wrong?

Wait, maybe, Waddell knows something. Maybe there is hard empirical evidence for her headline? She does have an MA (Hons) English Literature with MLitt in Modernities from the University of Glasgow with a focus on William Carlos Williams. Williams was a left-liberal (like Tony Blair?) who lived quietly in the US unaligned with any party or movement. I guess he didn’t go on any marches inspiring Waddell to do the same?

Seriously though, I can find lots of scepticism about the effectiveness of street protest but also some suggestions that their effects are often less evident because they take time, as with the suffragettes but none that they actively harm movements. More important, however, there is evidence that peaceful, articulate and organised protests, as in the AUOB marches can ‘create long-lasting political change.’