Many activists and organizations use disruptions as an activism tactic. Basically, a disruption is activists marching into an establishment or other location, and chanting, speaking, or otherwise drawing attention. The animal rights movement is famous for this, especially the group Direct Action Everywhere, but this is a tactic used throughout history many times.
Disruptions are usually loud or eye catching or they aren’t effective. They can take place almost anywhere. It an be in a restaurant, grocery store, circus, butcher shop or any location associated with violence against humans or non humans, or a location likely to get attention.
The point of disruptions is to force the public to confront the issue, to make the cause, and the victims unforgettable and visible. To make it impossible to ignore. But there are some downsides to disruptions and situations when other tactics are best. Disruptions can be quite confrontational and the activists are often subjected to violence, harassment, sometimes even arrest or fines, although this is uncommon. Often the concern is that it won’t help the cause, but rather turn people away from it. This is a valid concern, and this could happen on an individual level.But activists who use this tactic argue that it helps get maximum visibility, and their real target is society at large, not necessarily the people or establishment they are disrupting. Disruptions have gotten lots of media attention, good and bad, which helps put the cause on the table, when otherwise there would have been no coverage, and generates debate about the issue. They believe it also inspires people to take action, and to realize they aren’t alone in their objection to the particular issue.
This is what Direct Action Everywhere Toronto says about disruption:
‘When asked whether DxE disruptions are really an effective means of protest, we offer two things to consider.
First, our goal isn’t so much to disrupt the people who are in an establishment, or even to disrupt the establishment itself (although obviously we are disrupting both). Our goal is bigger. Our goal is to disrupt the society and the social norms that make the exploitation of animals acceptable. By taking videos of our actions and sharing them on social media, we reach and provoke discussion with the broader public – who we are really trying to disrupt.
Second, we are reaching out to fellow vegans and would-be activists who may feel alone, disempowered or even ridiculed. They may never become DxErs but, by seeing us speak out boldly and with confidence in a restaurant or a grocery store, they know they are not alone and, at least within their own circle of influence, they find the courage to speak up for themselves and the animals. A case-in-point: following yesterday’s action at the Keg Mansion, a vegan left her table (of omnivores) and ran out after us into the parking lot to say thank you and give hugs.
Successful social justice movements have always had people who were willing to speak up and say “this is not acceptable, and we’re prepared to do something about it”. With video and social media, the power and reach of this form of expression is greater than ever.
DxE welcomes participation in whatever way you feel comfortable – shout (sing) out; chant slogans; hold a sign; stand with or near us; stand back and observe; do chalk art outside; help organize; etc. If you haven’t already done so, please consider checking out a DxE action. You may find your voice and, in so doing, help others to find theirs. Collectively, we are a stronger voice for the animals.’
Examples of disruptions:
Disruptions in the news:
While there has been many negative responses to these disruptions, it cant be denied they got visibility for animals, which is what they set out to do.