There's something about seeing posters about protests and rallies that can be comforting and confronting at the same time. Comforting because we can feel free to protest against wrongs, knowing we will be safe in having a voice in Australia and knowing that the protest may well result in positive changes.
Confronting because the very nature of protest can bring up conflict and tension. Knowing that in some countries people can be killed for having a say in a public form. Knowing that as part of a public rally you are setting yourself up as a person disagreeing with governments or authorities. Putting yourself out there, bringing your personal, professional and public selves to the fore if you like.
Having a voice is a core aspect of democracy and there can be a sense of community that can develop when attending public rallies. A feeling of being connected with others who share your beliefs or concerns. A sense that doing something as a group is much stronger than doing something alone. A shared understanding of the concerns you all have, feeling like you are not alone in your thoughts.
Of course public rallies are only one form of protest that we see these days. Another powerful form of protest is the use of social media, particularly online petitions, which can be a public or private way to protest against wrongs. These petitions can be started by anyone and can be a powerful and quick way to gauge the community's reactions to concerns. Some petitions take off and "go viral" while others take some time to gain momentum. Using other forms of social media like twitter can also stimulate discussion and build a sense of community as many people weigh into debates.
There's probably something special though about the public rally. The act of turning up, of taking the time, of showing the commitment to the cause, of being with others face to face, all make the experience quite different to the more simple use of social media. Being part of what could be a significant event leading to change in policy or action can be life affirming and community building.