What Protests Actually Sound Like In Cities All Over The World

"I think there’s a general feeling that we need to rise up and make our voices heard."

From Black Lives Matter and the worldwide Women's March that saw millions expressing their opinions earlier this year, there's been a surge of protests occurring all across the globe.

With that in mind, U.K.-based artist Stuart Fowkes created a project called "Protest & Politics," which is an interactive map that denotes the locations of noteworthy protests over time, though most shown have taken place within the past decade. In addition, the map contains field recordings from people who were on the ground at each demonstration, giving the listener an idea of what it was like to experience the given movement firsthand.

"No sounds define the age we're living in more clearly than protest sounds – and Protest and Politics is the world's first global mapping of the sounds of protest and demonstration," the project's site states.


According to Mashable, "Protest & Politics" officially launched on August 7 as part of a larger global recording initiative known as Cities and Memory. P&P sourced recordings from that initiative's own archive as well as enlisting assistance from field recordists around the globe. However, because many of the recordings were sourced or obtained via volunteer submissions, the map is nowhere near complete. One quick look at it will tell you the majority of the protest sounds come from Europe and America, while Africa, Asia and even South America have very few recordings or none at all.

In addition to listening to the protest sounds by geographical location, P&P also allows you to break them down by cause. For example, there are eleven sounds from the Women's March, which was held just one day after the election of President Donald Trump. Three of them are various chants heard at the Los Angeles march, one is from London, and the rest are from other cities around the United States. While protesters in L.A. were shouting "Her body her choice," marchers in Portland yelled "Not my President."

Another popular cause for concern was the United Kingdom's intended withdrawal from the European Union — AKA Brexit, which has four separate recordings. It's also really interesting to hear from protests in other parts of the world that westerners might not be familiar with because of the inherent societal and governmental differences. For example, democracy protests took place in the South Korean city of Chuncheon, New Delhi, and Fagaras, a Romanian city, but there's only recordings from one American protest for democracy in Los Angeles.

By examining how people voice dissent across the globe, and for what purpose, we can learn a bit more about issues paramount to societies that are different from our own and broaden our worldview.

"Fundamentally, you learn about two things," Fowkes tells City Lab, "You learn about similarities, and you learn about differences."

As you click through the map you may also notice certain geographical patterns or shifts. For example, while many chants used in American protests are similar if not identical, a common way to voice dissent in South America is by banging pots and pans together, This "casserole protesting" has now made its way to Europe and Canada. "What you pick up from dotting around the map is something of a unified voice that's becoming stronger, becoming louder," Fowkes notes. "More and more, people feel like they're part of something."

And even though many of the protests are progressive in nature because they come from contributor submissions, the map features protests of all kinds — including a right-wing anti-LGBTQ demonstration in Kraków, Poland. Still, that doesn't bother Fowkes.

"It says something about how we're collectively expressing our dissent," he told WIRED. "We are coming together. No matter how bad things get in the world, there's this sense of a collective voice building."

Cover image via Ververidis Vasilis / Shutterstock.


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