Throughout history, protest has been a powerful tool for change. Today, powerful people, in Kenya and around the world, are cracking down on our right to protest. It must be protected.

Driven by creativity and a sense of shared humanity, protest takes a multitude of forms online and offline, from strikes, marches and vigils to sit-ins and acts of civil disobedience.

These strategies and tactics can be used to pave the way for progress in areas that impact our everyday lives, including better governance, safer working conditions, and combating issues like racism, discrimination and environmental destruction. 

Peaceful protests

People have a right to protest peacefully, and states have a duty to respect, facilitate and protect this right. This means they shouldn’t interfere with protests, unless there is a legitimate threat to the safety and rights of others.

If police try to stop or limit a protest, that intervention must be proportionate and necessary, or in other words, must do more good than harm and must be the least rights restricting option. 

Authorities should instead find ways to make these spaces safer, by communicating with those organizing the protest and providing services like traffic management and access to first-aid services. 

However, in many cases, intervention from state authorities is what causes otherwise peaceful disruptions to become dangerous and violent. 

Is protest a human right?

When taking part in a protest, a person is exercising a variety of universally recognized human rights. 

As well as the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, this includes other rights that are essential to enable peaceful protest, including the right to life, to freedom of association, to privacy, and to be free from arbitrary arrest and detention, and from torture and other ill-treatment or punishment. 

Therefore, rather than being codified under a single law or treaty, the right to protest is protected under international human rights law by provisions enshrined in various international and regional treaties guaranteeing each of these distinct yet mutually reinforcing rights. Taken together, they provide protestors with comprehensive protection.   

Police at Protests

The way police and other state authorities engage with protesters has become increasingly militarized since the early 2000s. Militarization is happening in many ways, including the deployment of armed military forces to suppress protests and supplying police with equipment like armoured vehicles, military-grade aircraft, surveillance drones, guns and assault weapons, stun grenades and sound cannons. 

Military forces are organized, trained and equipped for war and defence and have no place at a protest, where police should be trained in de-escalation, mediation and keeping people safe. 

Governments try to justify this disproportionate escalation in the use of force by painting protesters as a threat to public safety, but in truth, these tactics are ultimately a way to intimidate people into silence.

How to stay safe at a protest

Some protests will be much safer than others, for example, those which are overtly family-friendly. If you’re not sure what to expect, contact the organizers to get more information.    

If there is a possibility that the situation could become more dangerous, there are ways you can be prepared to make sure you stay safe. Click here for a more detailed guide with steps you can take. 

  1. Know your rights – You have a right to peacefully assemble, a right to privacy and a right to protest. If you get injured, you have the right to receive medical care. Police must avoid the use of force. 
  2. Plan ahead – Find out where the protest is taking place and look for information about what to expect. Make a plan with your friends in case your group gets separated. 
  3. Wear protective clothing – You may need clothing that covers all your skin to protect you from exposure to sun and pepper spray. Bring shatter-resistant eye protection like sunglasses or swim goggles and a bandana soaked in water, lemon juice or vinegar that you can wear over your nose and mouth.
  4. Pack emergency supplies – Bring a basic first-aid kit, water that you can use to clean your eyes and face, identification, enough cash for a pay-phone call and transport and a fresh set of clothes. 
  5. Come prepared to document human rights abuses – If possible, bring equipment that can help you document police actions, misuse of force, and injuries. This could include a camera, a watch and pen and paper.

Protests Under Attack in Kenya

Amnesty International’s Protect the Protest campaign was launched in July 2022 to stop the attacks on peaceful protesters

In its flagship campaign, Protect the Protest, Amnesty International is working to expose when the right to protest is being violated and support movements worldwide as they strive for positive change. The campaign calls on governments to send a clear message that protesters should be protected and to remove unnecessary barriers and restrictions to peaceful protest.


  • Protest is treated as a threat
  • Unlawful force is used against protesters and less-lethal weapons are misused
  • Militarization takes place

Protest under attack in Kenya

Learn why protest is protected by human rights, how the freedom to protest is under threat throughout the world, and how you can defend your right to protest.