The image of the masked protestor, with their fiery eyes and fist in the air is one of the most iconic images in popular culture. This character has become romanticized, demonized, idolized, and oftentimes misunderstood. The upheaval that has taken place around the world, especially in the last four years, has both reinforced and broken this stereotype.
But who are those who take to the streets? Why do they do it? What do they want?
A procession of women in Nigeria, marching together with placards reading “Bring Back Our Girls”, has a considerably different tone than the charged clashes between riot police and anarchists in Greece. A candlelight vigil held by journalists in Lebanon in solidarity with Charlie Hebdo does not have the same risk of deadly violence as villagers and farmers confronting trigger-happy gunmen in Syria. And a group of concerned citizens voicing their discontent with the privatization of a public beach does not have the same high social and political stakes as those trying to overthrow an authoritarian regime.
However, despite vast differences in context and situation, those who take to the streets often share a common drive to stand up for ideas they believe in. For many, there is a common belief that by taking to the streets and making their voices public, they can influence change in their world.