There have been two elections recently, one in the UK and one in the US, The EU referendum and the US presidential election, where the outcome of the vote was protested, with civil disobedience and sometimes violence, by large numbers of franchised voters that took part, or could have, in the democratic process.

Traditionally, at least to my understanding, the purpose of such protest was usually to show dissent from the disenfranchised that did not have a voice at the ballot box so had no other outlet for their views. But that is not the case here.

Do the protesters have actual demands and can the protesters be accurately and fairly described as anti-democratic/authoritarian ?

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    It's probably not possible to provide a definitive answer to your question. To your observations, I have not really seen and rational demands made by the "protesters." Lots of "not my president" signs and statements to the effect that he should resign or, in more extreme cases, actually be killed. To me, this is really more of a hastily organized communal tantrum than a proper protest. A 1965 'march on Washington' or civil rights style sit-in these mobs certainly are not! In one instance, many of the "protesters" arrested at one of the events seem to have abstained from voting all together.
    – acpilot
    Nov 19 '16 at 23:14
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    There appear to be a couple of misassumption being made in this question that might impeded understanding. Here's some food for thought: 1. An assembly of people or protestors don't necessarily need specific "demands" per se. 2. Voter disenfranchisement takes many forms, from reduced facilities to redrawing county lines, which may be the case for some. 3. Democracy isn't something that comes a goes with every election.
    – Batman
    Nov 20 '16 at 0:05
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    The simple answer is they're saying "don't forget about us", particularly when they were so tight and the winning side in both cases is taking such a hard line stance. E.g. the so-called "Hard Brexit". I'm no protester but I'd gladly join in if such a dramatic EU cut was going to be made as it represents completely ignoring some 49% of those who voted. Nov 20 '16 at 1:34
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    @user1450877 it gets harder when views are more extreme and "polarised". I've attempted to describe the above in more detail as an answer. Nov 20 '16 at 2:43
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    Some US protestors are petitioning the electors not to vote the way they pledged or asking the government to look into voter fraud or tampering with automatic voting machines (hacking by Russia?) or petitioning state legislatures to appoint different electors: politics.stackexchange.com/questions/13114/… -- they may have started out just protesting in anger, but they definitely have paths available to them.
    – user2565
    Nov 20 '16 at 4:39

Following Mikasa's answer, I also agree that this is a broad question with a variety of reasons and is also quite opinionated. Some people do just protest because, well, they can. However, as a British person, I'll base this answer on the EU Referendum and why the protests for the outcome were particularly large.

So, first, let's dive in to our political spectrum - the range of opinion in our referendum:

enter image description here

(I've attempted to use neutral colouring here, but for clarity, I voted remain. See the following image for my position).

Using the above information as well as other generally available results, I'll make the following points:

  1. The Referendum is "non-binding", meaning the result doesn't automatically become law.
  2. It's a very tight referendum; the majority for leave was pretty small.
  3. Large chunks of people have relatively central views.
  4. It felt like a dark day for Europe, so people wanted to essentially say to Europe that "we're still your friends".
  5. The views of the winners were quite extreme. This is particularly apparent when we take a look at where major political players stand:

enter image description here

From my point of view, they're a really long way away. The kinds of policies that some people in the new Cabinet are suggesting are deeply concerning to me. We've got a new Cabinet that nobody voted for - it wasn't an election. These are the kinds of things that a protester is thinking about.

So, now consider the amount of people that are over to the right of the Governments position on our charts. That's a lot of people who's opinion is mostly being ignored by these "hard Brexit" suggestions. In general the further away you are, the angrier/ more disappointed you get.

The Crisis

This one's very much an EU Referendum only thing. Notice how Parliament - our elected representitives - are on the other side from the current Cabinet (the currently unelected executive branch). As a result, the Cabinet suggested that the EU bills would not pass through Parliament at all, on the assumption that Parliament would simply block it. People aren't happy that Parliament is essentially being ignored. This has lead to a partial Constitutional Crisis. It's a particularly interesting situation but further discussion on this note is outside the scope of this answer.


Next we have a more subtle cause - location. London is a major trader with Mainland Europe, particularly with financial services, and so naturally, it strongly voted to remain. London is also where Parliament and the largest protests were located - in effect, the strongest remain voters didn't have far to travel to make their opinion at least publicly visible.

Political Manoeuvring

Boris Johnson, displayed on the chart above, is also the previous Mayor of London. He is of course well aware of The City's (London) ties to Europe. His seemingly abrupt change from remain to leave felt like he had essentially stabbed The City - his city - in the back, in favour of his own political gains, as he was presumed to succeed David Cameron as the next Prime Minister. As a result, many protests occurred right outside his house.

The policies

Of course in any protest it helps to read the signs to see what people's concerns are. The common ones in this case (and in the US) are that people feel like they're losing freedoms and are gaining insecurity. As a common quote goes, "freedom must be fought for". These kinds of fundamental feelings will also push people to express opposition.


There's a lot of factors at play here - including many that I haven't included - but it can be summarised as a tight election that resulted in a winner with relatively extreme views, seemingly leaving many people out. The general feel of the protests is a strange mixture of openness (we're still your friends!) and the loss of it.

Given this, I would say they're actually being pro-democracy as they're trying to pull the winning side towards the central ground where the overall opinion actually sits.


As this topic is so wide, I shall only be discussing the reasons surrounding the continued protests against the majority vote to leave the EU.

1: To Show Solidarity

Both before and after the EU referendum, rallies and protests were held. One such protest was held three months after the referendum in order to "strengthen its ties to the continent following the Brexit vote", therefore showing support for Europe.

Many others saw it more important to defend migrants, following the news of increased racial tension and attacks, which many felt was a result of a referendum campaign which had seen both Bremainand Brexit supporters engage in anti-immigrant rhetoric.

To protest

As you correctly analysed, many people took to the streets in protest of democratic outcomes. In terms of the Brexit vote, there were many who were angry because they felt that the referendum should "never have been called", with many accusing David Cameron of only calling the referendum in an attempt to prevent the Conservative party from tearing itself apart.

Others were concerned with the uncertainty surrounding the stock market, and diminished trust in the pound sterling. For some this was anger at reduced stock options, but for most it was anger at the falling value of the pound. This also relates back to why many felt it was necessary to question and challenge the ideas behind calling the referendum in the first place.

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