How has activism made a difference?
December 11, 2021 8:13 PM   Subscribe

I am in need of uplifting political stories.

I don't need to hear about Obamacare or how politicians have made a difference. I need to hear about how private citizens have made a positive difference in politics, such as pushing an issue to bring a good law about.

I prefer reading, with a length between a sentence and an article. The setting can be any time or place, as long as it is factual.
posted by NotLost to Law & Government (15 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: These are articles based on a podcast:

Kerb Cuts Activism for wheelchair access.

He's Still Neutral Community building around a Buddha statue

Guerilla Public Service Changing a street sign

A local (to me) story about saving a wetland from developers.

And in case you are up to a documentary film, Citizen Jane, the battle for the City
which is about Jane Jacobs the urban planning activist.
posted by Zumbador at 9:10 PM on December 11, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: An earlier post on the blue about Frances Goldin
posted by praemunire at 9:53 PM on December 11, 2021

Best answer: The Haitian Revolution began as a rebellion of enslaved people.

The 504 Sit-In was a big deal for disability rights in the US, and succeeded in part because of the networks of support organizers had built with other activist groups, such as the Black Panthers, who regularly brought meals and supplies to help the occupation continue.

Activism by groups like ACT UP early in the AIDS epidemic led to huge changes in, among other things, how new drugs are developed and tested in the US.
posted by jameaterblues at 10:09 PM on December 11, 2021 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I made a post last year about the 50th anniversary of the Abortion Caravan:
In 1970, seventeen women from Vancouver drove 4,500 kilometres across Canada to Ottawa, gathering supporters as they went. They invaded Parliament Hill and shut down the House of Commons.

The activists covered the spectrum of feminist demands, from daycare to the end of capitalism. But for this trek they had come together on a single issue — the need to decriminalize abortion and to gain recognition of women’s right to control their own bodies.
Over 400 women arrived on Parliament Hill to demand a meeting with the Prime Minister and cabinet ministers to discuss abortion laws, but they were ignored. So the activists camped out at the Prime Minister's residence and installed a black coffin on his veranda. A couple of days later 40 women entered the galleries of the House of Commons and chained themselves to the seats, shouting their demands and eventually forcing Parliament to adjourn, a first in its 103-year history.

It would be another 18 years before Canada's abortion laws were finally changed, but the Abortion Caravan was a monumental effort by ordinary activists, and their effect can't be underestimated.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:10 PM on December 11, 2021 [5 favorites]

Best answer: Atlantic Coast Pipeline was cancelled ostensibly due to cost overruns, but public opposition was huge and constant.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:15 AM on December 12, 2021

Best answer: In Nijmegen (the Netherlands) in the 1980s, city council wanted to demolish houses and a warehouse in the Piersonstraat to build a parking garage (this was during peak housing crisis). The squatters movement intervened and worked together with local residents to occupy the houses and barricade the streets. At first there was backlash against the occupiers, but then public opinion shifted. Eventually the protesters (including people peacefully protesting) were forcibly removed. The whole debacle made international headlines (the NYT, for example), the protest marches continued and in the end the mayor and city council had to back down, the parking garage was never built and the area to this day retains its social housing status. Here's an English Wikipedia article about the riots.
posted by fregoli at 5:34 AM on December 12, 2021

Best answer: Deaf President Now, and more recently Deaf Superintendent Now.
posted by Toddles at 7:14 AM on December 12, 2021 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Sometimes these are stories that are only told piecemeal in the media. Here's one where I can connect some dots: Pittsburgh activist Nique Craft* was among those who led opposition to Democratic mayor Bill Peduto because of his poor record on police reform and racial justice. They spearheaded demonstrations that brought attention to those issues. Peduto was defeated in the mayoral primary this spring, with those issues thought to be a substantial part of his defeat. On Election Day, Pittsburgh officially voted in its first Black mayor, Ed Gainey, and - heartbreakingly - Nique died.

*full disclosure: to whom I provided behind-the-scenes support for a number of years.
posted by jocelmeow at 1:32 PM on December 12, 2021

Best answer: This is also another personal type thing but my uncle was a kind of big deal activist in the 60s and 70s and is now a decently well-known actor who has written a few memoirs. And he gets asked this general question a fair amount in a more general way. "What did you all accomplish?" And I mentioned his reply here in this comment and I'll copy it again over here. It may or may not be helpful to you, it's helpful for me.
"Whatever we learned, we learned from making a complete commitment... The search for some kind of moral stance... the search for justice and some kind of economic equity... trying to leave a smaller footprint on the planet... exploring alternative spiritual and medical practices... they were all valid searches and they've all been completely integrated into the culture today. They're so integrated that you don't even notice them. No, we didn't end imperialism. We didn't end capitalism. We didn't do a lot of things we wanted to do. But there's no place you can go today where you can't find organic food, where you can't find yoga lessons or a chiropractor or you can't find some kind of spiritual alternative or some kind of acupuncture or alternative medicine. We did that, our generation. I'm proud of that. I wish we'd been omniscient. You know, I wish we hadn't made any mistakes or been able to do everything we wanted to do. But that would have probably meant that the world would come to an end because there'd be nothing left for the next generation to do. So -- I did my part. I'm still doing it."
Because I live on the internet and I look to the internet for a lot of things, I think about stories like this woman's campaign to get more accurate information about Nazis (i.e. not just the "this really awful German dude was a war hero!") or the Tougaloo Nine's read-ins to get public libraries in the South desegregated, or the Biloxi wade-ins to work on desegregating beaches. There are other civil rights campaigns such as Solomon Etting who fought to be able to even hold legislative office (he was Jewish, this was illegal in Maryland until 1826) or Gavin Grimm's fighting his high school's stupid policy on which restroom students had to use which made its way to the Supreme Court (who declined to hear it and he settled for substantial legal fees). Title IX in the US in general has a lot of scrappy folks fighting for equal rights. And here's a local "saving land from development" story from my neighborhood also.
posted by jessamyn at 2:18 PM on December 12, 2021 [4 favorites]

Best answer: How Pointe-St-Charles' activists changed Quebec and Canada.

Also from the Point, the story of Bâtiment 7 (in English).

Milton-Parc: How We Did It – activists saved an entire classic neighbourhood of Montreal from developers in the 1970s.
posted by zadcat at 6:22 PM on December 12, 2021 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: These are all encouraging! Thank you.
posted by NotLost at 9:53 PM on December 12, 2021

Belatedly, but.
posted by Tamanna at 5:19 AM on December 13, 2021

Killings by police declined after Black Lives Matter protests. A study also found body-camera use and community policing increased in places with the most active movements.
posted by nouvelle-personne at 8:33 PM on December 16, 2021

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