Marchers hold U.S. and Mexican flags during an
immigrants rights march in San Ysidro, Calif.
(a community in San Diego), Monday, May 1,
2006. The march was part of a nationwide protest
called the “Day Without Immigrants,” calling for
Congressional action on immigration reform.

Mass protest has been an effective political tool throughout American history. People who possess little power as individuals have organized themselves into real political forces by coming together and staging large demonstrations, especially in city streets. Indeed, cities were centers of protest during the pre-revolutionary struggles against the British and have remained so ever since.Protests can happen anywhere, but it is in cities where tens of thousands can gather to demonstrate. As media centers, they are also a logical place for protests. Groups needing to be heard have taken to the streets: from
garment workers (page below) protesting the deaths at the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York in 1911 to Chicanos in Seattle (below) marching against the Vietnam War, or immigrants in San Diego demanding reform of U.S. immigration laws (right).


Chicano marchers in Seattle protest against the
Vietnam War, c. early 1970s.

As the seat of government, Washington, D.C., has long been the focal point for groups demanding redress of grievances. Examples include Coxey’s Army in 1894, which called on the federal government to create jobs during a depression, women suffragists picketing the White House during World War I, the Bonus Marchers of the Great Depression, and the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.


Members of the International Ladies Garment
Workers Union mourn and protest the loss of life in
the March 25, 1911, Triangle Shirtwaist Factory
fire in New York City.
These and other protests have helped change the course of U.S. history as they brought issues to the national stage. Protests can occur almost anywhere, but it is in cities where people can most easily bring their cause to the attention of the nation and the world. Cities are places where people can make their voices heard and challenge the prerogatives of the powerful.