Politics in Minutes (2016)

The right to protest

In most modern liberal democracies, political parties contest elections to form the government. In this way, as well as a ruling party (or coalition of parties) there are elected representatives in opposition, to argue for those who hold different views. But individuals also feel the need to oppose governments, and in many societies there is a right to free speech and the right to protest. The degree to which it allows criticism and protest is often the test of a civilized society.

Authoritarian states may restrict citizens’ rights to voice criticism of the establishment or hold demonstrations, but in others the right to protest is specifically enshrined in law. But even in liberal countries, these rights can be limited by law. Of course, violent and destructive protest is outlawed, but restrictions on public gatherings have been introduced in some places, justified by concerns of law and order. Recently, concerns of terrorism have led to certain organizations also being outlawed and restrictions imposed on communications.

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