Students have often been a driving force for numerous important social and cultural events for over a hundred years. They were asking essential questions about what is wrong with the current state of society, raising their voice for the voiceless, or even trying to prevent ongoing wars.
The 21st century alone is full of student demonstrations that engaged the whole world to think about human rights, racism, democracy, and many other issues that were not even present in the public sphere. Women's rights and LGBTQIA rights were something that did not even exist just a few decades back for most of the world. Here are just some of the examples that showed the importance of critical mass, such as student activists certainly are.
School Strike In Poland
In 1901, parts of Poland were annexed by Germany. In one catholic school located in the town of Września, students protested after the Germans announced how all classes about religion would be taught in the German language. What started as an initiative from a 100 brave students, turned into massive crowd protests that lasted for three years.
Anti-Establishment Protests At UCLA
The 1930s in the United States of America, and especially in the West Coast, were symbolized by a discourse against communism, which caused the so-called ‘’red scare’’. When five students got suspended because they allegedly formed communist affiliations. In 1934, more than 3000 students from UCLA protested on the streets of Los Angeles.
The White Rose Society
In 1942, while the Nazi regime was slowly but surely devastating, not only Germany but the whole world, students from the University of Munich decided they will not stand in the shadows. They printed and shared fliers and information about Hitler’s wrongdoings, trying to stay under the radar of the Gestapo. Unfortunately, most of the students were caught and put in jail, with many of them being sentenced to death.
Vietnam War Protests
Across the whole of the United States of America, in the mid-1960s, students raised their voices against the war happening in Vietnam. Demonstrations first started in 1965, at Michigan’s University, after which the SDS (Students for a Democratic Society) spread to other cities in the US.
Soweto Youth Uprising
Horrific events that happened in 1976 marked a tipping point against the South African struggles against apartheid. On June 16, inspired by the Black Consciousness Movement, a group of students demanded that Afrikaans becomes the official language in schools. The response from the police was rapid and violent, and it is estimated that close to 700 people were gunned down that day.
Arguably the most famous photo that shows how it looks when people stand up against something comes from the Tiananmen Square in China as students started occupying the square after the death of Hu Yaobang, to pay their respects.
Occupation grew into massive demonstrations against the government that lasted more than six weeks. A man stood in front of a tank on May 20, 1989, because the Chinese government declared martial law, and it gave a green light on military action against the students. Hundreds, if not even thousands of people were killed that day by the military.
Black Lives Matter
After Trayvon Martin’s killer was released in 2013, high-school students started to protest against this crime. Black Lives Matter movement grew into something much bigger, and engaged student activists from all over the world, raising their voice against racism.
Jadavpur University #Hokkolorob
In 2014, a female student at Jadavpur University in Calcutta was molested, and it immediately prompted a response from all students that the authorities need to investigate the crime. After that did not happen, they technically took over the university, not letting the officials leave.
The police responded violently and molested some of the female students again. However, that only triggered four-month-long demonstrations in which the students decided to starve themselves to death. Finally, the vice-chancellor held responsible resigned.
Engaging millions of people with a meaningful hashtag on social networks never proved to be more potent of a weapon than now. In 2017, the #MeToo movement spread across the world to raise awareness of the presence of sexual harassment in every part of our society.
March For Our Lives
In 2018, seventeen students from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School were killed by a mass shooter. One of the survivors, Emma González, shared her story with the world and sparked a nationwide movement that demanded more strict gun control laws.
On March 24, just seven weeks after the horrific events in one of Parkland’s high schools, more than a million people marched across the United States of America under the rally known as ‘’March For Our Lives.’’