Thursday, August 11, 2011

The New Sounds of Protest

Sometimes it’s simplicity that best captures our imagination. Facing its own financial crisis and a major clamp down on public protest, calls for reform among Belarus’ anti-government protesters has given rise to a new sound of protest – first organized ‘clapping’ and now, synchronized mobile phone alarms.

Highlighted in a recent NYT article – the clamp down of ‘clapping protests’ has resulted in more than 1,830 protestors’ being detained since June. More than 500 have received prison sentences of between 5 to 15 days. The extent of the situation was illustrated in court recently when a protestor – defending police claims of clapping – raised to the judge his one arm.

The response? Welcome to “mobile phone action”, engineered via social media channels. Young flash mob groups converge on the streets, then at the appointed time their mobile phone alarms sound simultaneously. It leaves officials stumped – is this is in fact a protest? Who is responsible? What action can be taken?

History has taught us that protest doesn’t need to be complicated to be profound – it can be as simple as sitting down in a public place (or throwing a shoe!). The power of protest lies in simple human communication. Add just a little creativity and expressing yourself becomes irresistible – and irrepressible.