Together, we are unstoppable.
Women's right to vote. Marriage equality. The five day working week.
All were won by ordinary people trying to make a difference for themselves and their communities.
Without the right to raise our voices in protest, the world would be a very different place.The power of protest
"It is in your hands to create a better world for all those who live in it."
- Nelson Mandela
History has shown us that protest is powerful. From the end of apartheid in South Africa to the protection the Franklin river, when passionate and courageous people raise their voice, they make the world a better place.
Mardi Gras 1978
Sydney’s Gay Solidarity Group organised a march to commemorate the anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York in 1978. Police violently cracked down on the march and arrested 53 of the courageous protesters.
The march started a movement for equality for LGBTQI+ Australians, one that would lead to the decriminalisation of homosexuality and marriage equality.
The March on Washington
In 1963, to mark one hundred years since emancipation, over 250,000 Americans marched on Washington to raise awareness of the continuing discrimination and inequalities faced by African Americans.
“Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.”
Dr Martin Luther King Jr.
In 2020, Black Americans are continuing the fight for racial equality and calling for an end to police violence, while being met with the very same violence they are protesting against.
The Wave Hill walk-off
The Wave Hill walk-off
In 1966 Gurindji stockmen walked off the Wave Hill pastoral station to demand better working conditions. Led by Vincent Lingiari, the walk off also inspired the Aboriginal land rights movement.
In 1976, Prime Minister Gough Whitlam returned over 3,000 square kilometres of land to the Gurindji people – the first time the Commonwealth returned land to an Aboriginal community.
The 8 hour day
In 1856 Melbourne stonemasons walked off the job in protest. This protest ended in an agreement for stonemasons to work no more than eight-hours each day – it also kick started the eight-hour day movement.
In 1948 that the Commonwealth approved a 40-hour, five-day working week.
These are just of few examples of the power of people banding together to make the world a better place. There are countless others. But right now, our right to join our voices and challenge injustice is under threat.Close
What if it was taken away?
Right now, governments and powerful groups with deep pockets are threatening our right to protest.
We need to act.What's happening?
In Australia, and around the world, the right to protest is under threat.
In 2019, the Queensland government passed the Summary Offences and Other Legislation Amendment Act 2019. Four United Nations Special Rapporteurs said the laws were “inherently disproportionate,” and could criminalise peaceful protest.
The Queensland government consulted mining lobby group the Queensland Resources Council on the laws.
Mining companies and powerful lobby groups are pushing governments to further restrict our right to peaceful assembly in response to recent climate protests – threatening not just our right to protest, but also our ability to combat the climate crisis.
Worryingly, there is no federal Human Rights Act in Australia which can be used to challenge anti-protests laws in court and protect our human rights.
According to the Amnesty International Australia Human Rights Barometer 2021:
- Australians support the right to protest. Overwhelming majority of respondents supported the right to vote (86%), freedom of speech (83%) and the right to protest (68%).
- Many Australians don’t realise that the right to protest is not protected under federal law. 53% of respondents believed freedom of speech is protected by Australian law. While the High Court has ruled the existence of an implied freedom of political communication, it is not explicitly protected under the Australian Constitution. The current common law precedents operate as an avenue available to free oneself from government restraint, rather than a right that is directly conferred on the individual.
We believe that a federal Human Rights Act can be used to challenge anti-protests laws in court and protect our human rights.
Around the world
In 2019 people from all corners of the globe spoke out and stood up for human rights.
In Hong Kong, millions marched over proposed laws that would allow extradition to mainland China. Thousands of protesters were arrested, and Amnesty documented evidence of torture and ill-treatment in detention.
“I felt my legs hit with something really hard. Then one [officer] flipped me over and put his knees on my chest. I felt the pain in my bones and couldn’t breathe. I tried to shout but I couldn’t breathe and couldn’t talk.”
A man detained at a Hong Kong police station following his arrest at a protest.
Time and time again, Amnesty has documented the use of lethal and unlawful force against protesters. In Iraq and Iran alone, the use of lethal force caused the deaths of hundreds of protesters.
Following the killing of George Floyd in 2020, demonstrations swept the USA calling for an end to police violence and killings, particularly of Black people.
Amnesty has documented numerous human rights violations committed by police forces in response to these demonstrations. This includes the use of tear gas, rubber bullets, and pepper spray to repress those who were demonstrating peacefully.Close
Right to Protest
We want everyone to be able to safely stand up for human rights.
Together we can protect the #RightToProtest and continue to challenge injustice.Our campaign
We need to protect the right to protest so we can continue to create change and make the world fair, free, and just.
We can’t afford to be silenced now. Protest is the most powerful tool we have to protect our rights and our future. To make a difference we need to protect the right to protest.
To ensure the right to protest is protected we will;
- Pressure Australian governments to repeal anti-protest laws, so that Australian laws respect the right to protests,
- Advocate for laws that protect peaceful protest – including a federal Human Rights Act,
- Protect people exercising their rights, making sure police behaviour is proportionate and peaceful protest is safe for people to attend,
- Challenge harmful anti-protest rhetoric in the media, and
- Pressure governments around the world end the growing crackdown on peaceful protests, and ensure activists and human rights defenders can continue to safely campaign to make the world a better place.