Protect the Protest

A campaign to confront the unprecedented worldwide threat to the right to protest.

The right to protest is under unprecedented and growing threat across all regions of the world. Protect the Protest is a global campaign to confront states’ widening and intensifying efforts to erode this fundamental human right.

From Russia to Sri Lanka, France to Senegal, and Iran to Nicaragua, state authorities are implementing an expanding array of measures to suppress organised dissent and to restrict the right to protest.

Protesters are facing a growing number of laws and measures to restrict their right to protest, including the misuse of force, the expansion of unlawful surveillance, internet shutdowns, online censorship, and stigmatisation. These restrictions are having particularly devastating impacts on marginalised and discriminated groups, who face even greater barriers and violence when they seek to protest.

The ability to protest safely is an issue that intersects with the right to be free from discrimination. People who face inequality and discrimination, based on their age, race, gender identity and many other factors, face even more dangers to their right to protest. It is crucial that everyone can protest safely and without discrimination.

In recent years we have seen some of the biggest protest mobilisations for decades. Black Lives Matter, MeToo, and the climate change movements have inspired millions the world over to take to the streets and online to demand racial and climate justice, equity and livelihoods, and an end to gender violence and discrimination. Elsewhere, people have stood up in their thousands against police violence and killings, state repression and oppression.

A range of issues including the environmental crisis, growing inequality and threats to livelihoods, systemic racism and gender-based violence have made collective action ever more necessary.

This wave of mass protest has been met with obstructive, repressive and often violent responses by state authorities. Instead of facilitating the right to protest, governments are going to ever greater lengths to quash it.

In our flagship campaign, Protect the Protest, Amnesty International is working to expose when the right to protest is being violated and support movements worldwide as they strive for positive change.

Read our briefing.

Protect the Protest interactive map

Interact with our map to see how governments are violating the human rights of protestors around the world. Click on the full screen icon for full interactivity.

The right to peaceful protest

International human rights law protects the right to protest in various international and regional treaties, which taken together, provide protests with comprehensive protection.

Individually or collectively, peaceful protestors exercise a variety of rights, such as the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. Other rights are essential to enable peaceful protest, including the right to life, to freedom of association, to privacy, and to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention, and from torture and other ill-treatment or punishment.

It’s time to loudly remind those in power of our inalienable right to protest, to express grievances, and to demand change freely, collectively and publicly.

Peaceful protests

People have a right to protest peacefully, and states have a duty to respect, facilitate and protect this right. This means they shouldn’t interfere with protests, unless there is a legitimate threat to the safety and rights of others.

If police try to stop or limit a protest, that intervention must be proportionate and necessary, or in other words, must do more good than harm and must be the least rights restricting option.

Authorities should instead find ways to make these spaces safer, by communicating with those organising the protest and providing services like traffic management and access to first-aid services.

However, in many cases, intervention from state authorities is what causes otherwise peaceful disruptions to become dangerous and violent.

Why is protest important?

Throughout history, protest has been a powerful tool for change. It’s because of the bravery of those who speak out that a more just and equal world is possible. The Salt March in India in 1930 against British colonial rule, the Arab Spring uprisings, the anti-apartheid protests in South Africa, the decades of Pride marches that followed the Stonewall Riots in 1969, and the Black Lives Matter protests in recent years. These mark key historical moments of change, driven by people who refused to give up, who spoke truth to power – people who protested.

One action can spark a movement. If we work together, we can create a better world where everyone is equal and free from inequalities. Protest has played a vital role in making sure our human rights are acknowledged by institutions with power.

Driven by creativity and a sense of shared humanity, protest takes a multitude of forms online and offline, from strikes, marches and vigils to sit-ins and acts of civil disobedience.

These strategies and tactics can be used to pave the way for progress in areas that impact our everyday lives, including better governance, safer working conditions, and combating issues like racism, discrimination and environmental destruction.

Protest is an invaluable way to speak truth to power. Throughout history, protests have been the driving force behind some of the most powerful social movements, exposing injustice and abuse, demanding accountability and inspiring people to keep hoping for a better future.

Protest under attack around the world

A protester holds 'Stop executions in Iran' and 'Free Iran' placards during the demonstration in London, on January 14, 2023. Demonstrators gathered outside Downing Street in protest against the death penalty and executions in Iran and in support of freedom for Iran.

Stop the executions of protestors in Iran

Illustration of children in Thailand at a protest

Russia's war censorship laws must go

Emine Ocak, a member of Saturday Mothers Turkish group is detained by Turkish female riot police during a demonstration on August 25, 2018 in Istanbul. - Istanbul police break up a regular demonstration by Turkish mothers and other relatives of people that were forcibly disappeared in the 1980s and 1990s, detaining dozens as they marked holding the 700th such weekly protest. (Photo by Hayri TUNC / AFP) (Photo credit should read HAYRI TUNC/AFP/Getty Images) ------- The photo shows Emine Ocak, mother of Hasan Ocak, who was forcibly disappeared in the hands of the state in 1995 at age 23. The longstanding peaceful vigil known as the ‘Saturday Mothers’ vigil first started as a response to the hundreds of reported cases of enforced disappearances during the 1980s and 1990s by relatives of people who were forcibly disappeared and to protest against the prevalent impunity for grave human rights violations of the day. The exact circumstances of the disappearances in the vast majority of cases are still unknown, including the fate and whereabouts of hundreds of victims, and those responsible have not been brought to justice. Saturday Mothers have held 699 peaceful gatherings since May 1995. During this time, many participants have faced intimidation, harassment, excessive use of force, arbitrary detention and unjust prosecution. In 1999, as a result, the organizers decided to stop holding the weekly vigils, which resumed in 2009 to continue with their demand of truth and justice for all cases of enforced disappearances. On 25 August, police in Istanbul used unnecessary and excessive force, including tear gas, plastic bullets and water cannons, to disperse participants of a weekly vigil - known as the ‘Saturday Mothers vigil’ - held for victims of enforced disappearance. The longstanding protest was marking its 700th week since it was first held in 1995. Scores of participants, including elderly relatives of people who were forcibly disappeared in the hands of the state, were ill-treated and 47 people were detained before being released from police custody later that day.

Protect the protest in Türkiye

Campaigners call for a torture free trade treaty in London

Stop torturing protestors

Join our campaign and become an activist to Protect the Protest.

If you would like to organise and lead activism on the Protect the Protest campaign, please email act(at)

Learn about the right to protest.

Learn why protest is protected by human rights, how the freedom to protest is under threat throughout the world, and how you can defend your right to protest.