On September 20th, four million people across the globe expressed their concern and anger about climate change by demonstrating (=gathering or walking in a public place to show their opinion). We thought this a good time to look at the language of demonstrating.
First up, the verb protest is a synonym for ‘demonstrate’: Employees are protesting against the cuts. In US English especially, ‘protest’ is often used transitively: Students protested the laws. A phrase that is frequently used, especially in newspapers, to mean ‘protest’ is take to the streets: Millions took to the streets in the largest environmental protest in history.
‘Protest’ is also a noun. We talk about holding or staging a protest: They’re holding a protest in the town square./We decided to stage a protest.
The noun from ‘demonstrate’ is demonstration. It is sometimes shortened, informally, to demo. Again, we talk about holding or staging a demonstration/demo: Students held/staged a demonstration outside the law courts.
When an event causes a protest, newspapers often report it as sparking a protest: The bill has sparked mass protests in both major cities.
A march is a public event in which people walk somewhere to show their opinion about something. We say that people go on a march: She’s going on an animal rights march this Saturday. ‘March’ is also a verb. If people march on somewhere, they deliberately march towards it as part of the protest: They marched on the Pentagon to demand an end to the war.
When a demonstration or march becomes noisy, violent and uncontrolled, it is often referred to as a riot. A riot may erupt, meaning it suddenly starts: A riot erupted after police arrested two men. ‘Riot’ is also a verb: Students are rioting in the capital.
Protesters often hold or carry with them placards (= large pieces of card, etc. with messages) or banners (= long pieces of material with messages). They usually chant (=sing or shout a phrase repeatedly): Demonstrators chanted, ‘Whose planet? Our planet!’. They sometimes chant into megaphones (= cone shaped devices) to make their voices louder.
Finally, thinking about what demonstrators actually do during a protest, they may block roads, preventing traffic from entering a place: Climate protesters blocked roads near the port of Dover. Sometimes they occupy a building or other space, moving into it and taking control of it: Demonstrators occupied both public squares in the capital city. In order to occupy a space, they may stage a sit-in, sitting down and refusing to leave, or a die-in in which they lie down and refuse to leave.