Street protests in times of COVID-19: adjusting tactics and marching ‘as usual’

Source: Maciej Kowalewski, Social Movement Studies, Advance Access, November 3, 2020
(subscription required)

From the abstract:
Protests offline, under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic and regulations such as a stay-at-home, require the adaptation of existing tactics and/or the use of innovative tools in the contention repertoire. This adaptation concerns restrictions related to pandemic measures, the lockdown of businesses/institutions, and social distancing along with access to resources, protesters’ security, and the no-harm principle. This paper provides examples of protests which have occurred since March 2020, under four categories: (1) tactics adjusted to pandemic-related limitations, (2) tactics that are an essence of such limitations, (3) tactics related to opposition to the lockdown, and (4) protest tactics use framed as ‘pandemic’. In the first section, I show how street protest (if permitted at all) is strengthened by symbolic action and how inability to refer to the ‘logic of numbers’ subjects the tactics to the ‘logic of bearing witness.’ However, the challenges and tactical limitations do not apply to the opponents of lockdown, breaking the rules of the sanitary regime. The demonstrations against the lockdown preserve the positive effects of street protests and even strengthen them. Discussion concerning high-risk protest actions under threat of infection results, however, in medicalization of political contention.