What can be achieved by protesting?

Protest march through Sheffield
Protest march through Sheffield
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The Star editor, Nancy Fielder, asks “What does protest achieve?”, (Star, February 7),

Most of us question whether it makes a difference and does it influence decision-making on a wide range of important and sometimes controversial issues?

I was once told by a government minister that public opinion does count as newspaper editors, politicians, government and council officials are all aware that every individual protest represents thousands of people who may not actually come forward to voice their concerns but nonetheless share the same view.

Changing established and often out-dated practices is not easy and history has taught us that just causes and righting wrongs are invariably fought over a period of many years and only achieved after a long and hard struggle.

There are many examples such as the campaign to abolish slavery, civil rights, the Suffragette movement for which we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the day women won the right to vote and in more recent times the poll tax revolt.

There are also the current demonstrations against fracking and many will remember the heroic efforts of protesters to save 10,000 trees which were destroyed to build the Newbury bypass in 1996. Sadly they didn’t manage to stop the felling of the trees but their campaign did influence future road-building programmes to the extent that it raised awareness of the importance of our ever-diminishing areas of woodland and the need to protect them.

Anyone who might think their actions were a waste of time should be reminded that they did change transport policy as, although there were 600 new road schemes proposed, it was whittled down to 150 and in 1997 the road programme was scrapped completely.

Eventually the protesters action was successful in stopping future projects so it is possible to sway political policy.

Protests in Sheffield have included petitions to save many of the city’s historic buildings from being demolished, a present campaign to try and stop the closure of two vital NHS units at the Hallamshire Hospital and the Walk-In-Centre on Broad Lane which is supported by a 10,000 signature petition, and the ongoing campaign to try and save Sheffield’s healthy trees from being destroyed.

This great city of Sheffield has seen its fair share of protests by people who aren’t prepared to be trampled on and ignored by the all powerful governing bodies who think they know what is best for us.

Protesters have made the world a better place over the years and without their determination we would still be living with things that are unfair, unjust and detrimental to our whole way of life.

Susan Richardson

Westminster Crescent, Lodge Moor, Sheffield, S10