What Can the Refugees Welcome March Learn From People-Powered Movements?

August 31, 2016


How Does "People Power" Fuel Movements and Drive Change?

History has taught us that people power is a force to be reckoned with. Time and again, grassroots movements have proved to be the primary factor in driving change. Considering the deepening global refugee crisis, right now, these movements are more important than ever.

We believe that governments aren’t doing enough at a time when hundreds of thousands of lives are at risk. That has to change, so it’s time to make some noise. Join us at the Refugees Welcome Here march in London on 17th September.

Together we can put pressure on our leaders to come up with a coordinated humanitarian response to the crisis. But don't just take our word for it - check out these powerful examples of the amazing change achieved by people getting together and hitting the streets.


Keystone XL

The Keystone XL project was one of the major environmental flashpoints in recent years. The proposed 1,897-kilometer pipeline planned to carry huge quantities of crude oil extracted from the Alberta tar sands to refineries on America's Gulf Coast. Given extensive evidence that it would catastrophically accelerate climate change, it was shaping up to be decidedly bad news for the planet. With so much at stake, tens of thousands of concerned citizens mobilised in force, engaging in a pitched six-year battle that saw campaigners taking to the streets in towns and cities all over the US. In November 2011, over 10,000 protesters surrounded the White House, literally taking the fight to the presidential doorstep, and the campaign finally triumphed late last year when Barack Obama answered the call of the people and refused to give the project his support.

Amazon Dam Busting

Sadly, environmentally damaging development proposals come up as frequently as chunks of brownies in a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie ice cream. The most recent project to cause public outcry was the proposed São Luiz do Tapajós mega-dam in the Amazon basin, which threatened to flood a huge area of delicate rainforest, and displace entire communities of the local Munduruku Indigenous People. Greenpeace and local citizens staged public protests over the planned involvement of multinationals, while a whopping 1.2 million people supported its anti-dam petition. Happily, a landmark victory came earlier this year when Brazil's Environmental Protection Agency announced the suspension of the licensing process, sending a clear message to future developers in the region.


Marriage Equality in Ireland

Not content with curing leprosy, pioneering colour photography and inventing Guinness, Ireland recently became the first country ever to legalise same-sex marriage by popular vote. The march towards marriage-equality was spearheaded by LGBT-rights activists like David Norris, whose tireless campaigning secured the legalisation of homosexuality in 1993 and subsequently paved the way for the May 2015 showdown. Tactics ranged from Trinity College students ringing their grannies to chat about same-sex marriage to full scale ground campaigns by anti-discrimination groups like Yes Equality, who mobilised ordinary people to hit the streets, knock on doors and press for change. Ireland is now one of the most tolerant and inclusive countries on earth, and we have people power to thank for it.

What Can the Refugee Movement Take From These?

Alongside climate change, the refugee crisis is the most important issue facing the world today. A recent poll shows that British public opinion is overwhelmingly behind supporting refugees, so it's time to prove we mean business. How we act now will affect the lives of millions and - ultimately - shape our future society, so we need to make sure it's a society we want to live in.

On 19th & 20th September, world leaders will meet to discuss the crisis at the UN summit in New York. By marching in London in 17th September, we can send them a clear message that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the millions of refugees around the world. So put the date in your diary and make your voice heard!