Intermediate word of the day: protest

When you protest against something or you protest in support of something, you do something to show that you are upset about an issue and want a change. Here are things people do to protest:

  • They hold a demonstration and march through the city centre. They might then finish in a city square or park, where they have a rally during which people give speeches to demand change or to condemn the actions of the government (= to say they are bad and wrong).
  • People refuse to do something. For example, they might refuse to obey orders or obey a law they disagree with or they might refuse to pay a tax in protest against / at a government policy or decision.
  • Workers go on strike (= refuse to work) to protest against working conditions or low pay. Prisoners and other people sometimes go on hunger strike (= refuse to eat) as a protest against poor conditions or to draw attention to their political ideas.
  • People sign a petition against a proposal – so protesters (or campaigners) might collect a million signatures to force an organisation to change its plans or policies.
  • People can also boycott a company or country by refusing to buy their products.

The way organisations respond to the protests can obviously vary. On some occasions, they quickly give in to the protests and do what the protesters want. That may mean that they drop their plans or reverse their decision (= stop their plan) or they might agree to make changes or agree to their demands. On the other hand, they might try to crush protests – police arrest people and use excessive force to break up demonstrations. People are injured or killed. Sometimes the violence can get worse and there are riots.

 Cover the text. What do you remember?

  • Who might protest and against who?
  • Say two things that often happen on a demonstration.
  • Say three things people refuse to do in protest.
  • Why might people go on strike? What other strike was mentioned?
  • What might be the opposite of giving in to demands?
  • What do protesters do when they give speeches?

Read about protests in the news

There are always reasons to protest, but it seems that there is a lot going on at the moment. Just this weekend there was a demonstration in our local area. People marched to protest outside the local council offices to persuade them to drop their plans for housing in the area. The council wants to build new homes, but in order to do so it is working with a private developer that’s likely to make a large profit from the project and most of the homes will be too expensive for many local people.

Elsewhere in London there was an American football game as part of the NFL season, where many of the players refused to stand when the national anthem was played. This was a protest in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign, which protests against black people being wrongly shot and killed by police. The protest was also in response to President Trump saying that players had no right to protest, were disrespecting the American flag and should be sacked.

Then outside the Labour Party conference there was a protest against the party’s policy on Brexit. There was a small rally where speakers demanded that the party agrees to stay in the single market.

At least all these protests were peaceful, although so far they haven’t been that successful.


  • What protests have you heard about recently?
  • What were they about?
  • Were they peaceful? If not, why not? What happened?
  • Were they successful or do you think they will be? Why why not?
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