"What a field day for the heat
A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, 'hooray for our side'"
— Buffalo Springfield, "For What It's Worth"
In any mass public gathering, positive (on the campaign trail, during sporting events, to raise awareness) or negative (at protests and/or strikes), there's bound to be people waving signs around.
Truth in Television
. In more humorous depictions, expect at least one sign to be completely irrelevant to the actual topic—"Hi, Mom", "Buy at Moe's", "I came to this rally and all I got was this stupid sign", etc. More serious ones may be the Powder Keg Crowd
Often accompanied by a Slogan Yelling Megaphone Guy
. See also Torches and Pitchforks
, for when the crowd gets too rowdy. Also The End Is Nigh
Positive Support Examples:
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- At the end of The Muppets, all the Muppets' fans have gathered outside the Muppet Theatre waving signs about how awesome the Muppets are. In Muppets Most Wanted they turn out to be paid extras.
- For What It's Worth by Buffalo Springfield mentions this.
- In the Family Guy episode "Mr. Griffin Goes to Washington", there's a guy holding a John 3:16 sign on a baseball game. Brian looks it up, and it turns out that it means: "And the Lord said, 'Go, Sox.'"
- In The Simpsons' "Stark Raving Dad", the John 3:16 guy turns up to welcome "Michael Jackson" to Evergreen Terrace along with fans with Jackson-specific signs.
- Played with in "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington". There was a group of protestors outside the White House holding signs saying things such as "Things are fine", "No Complaints Here", and "Everything's A-OK"
- In the first episode of Video Game High School, when Law appears on the fictional show In Real Life, supporters outside the studio are waving supportive signs. The Law himself enters with a sign reading "It's me".
Negative Protest Examples:
- Nextwave is seen carrying protest signs about the Civil War (and the fact that they're not involved).
- In the aftermath of Fear Itself, protesters gathered around Avengers Mansion, holding up signs that said "Avenging your own interests" and "What have you done for me lately?"
- PCU: Played with in this film, where there is an entire student organization evidently devoted to protesting for various causes, the cause in question seemingly changing with each week. At the end of the movie, the protagonists stage a large ad hoc protest against the college president, and offer some of their signs to the leader of the student protest organization, to which they reply "We brought our own" and produce a set of blank picket signs and markers that they evidently carry around with them.
- Revolution 1967: The crowd of protesters are carrying a lot of signs. The signs say things about how wages shouldn't be cut, the U.K. shouldn't be the 51st state of the U.S., and other topics such as Communism and National Liberation Front (Viet Cong).
- The 1982 film Who Dares Wins (aka The Final Option) opens with a CND rally through London, including children holding signs and even a dog with a sign in its jaws. A more humorous banner implores everyone to DROP TROUSERS NOT BOMBS.
- X-Men had a group of anti-mutant protesters, including one waving the ridiculously awesome placard "Send the mutants to the Moon forever"◊.
- In Seven Days in May, there is a brief scene of protestors doing this against the President's proposed peace treaty.
- In one Hardy Boys story, the boys and their friend (Chester, I think his name was) are investigating a massive protest against a boat, and get handed signs (which makes for a difficult moment when the boys' employer turns out to be the owner of the boat). Chester brings his own sign reading "FRANK HARDY FOR MAYOR".
- In Larry Niven's short story "Cloak of Anarchy", one character joins a protest group and holds up a blank sign. He intends this as a sociological experiment to see what people read into the sign; the protesters see him as mocking them and their cause, as they make painfully clear to him when a hacker crashes all the police robots that were the only thing preventing visitors from committing acts of violence on other visitors.
- In Mo Willems's Edwina, the Dinosaur Who Didn't Know She Was Extinct, when Reginald's first plan to convince people that there is no Edwina because dinosaurs are extinct fails, he stands around, waving a sign in red letters reading "This is not happening". It doesn't work either.
- In Paul Kidby's illustration of the Fresh Start Club from Reaper Man, Reg Shoe is holding a sign saying "Undead, yes - Unperson, no".
Live Action Television
- One Far Side cartoon depicted a protest by the Imbeciles Of America, whose signs were of course crudely made, misspelled, held upside down, etc.
- BioShock: Signs with slogans such as RYAN DOESN'T OWN US! can be found around Rapture, in protest to the city founder's policies, but by the time the player gets there, the time for peaceful protest has long passed. It probably ended pretty badly for the people gathered around the Welcome Center and Apollo Square.
- These same signs make a cameo along with a small section of Rapture in the sequel BioShock Infinite towards the end of the game.
- Team Fortress 2: The Smissmass update comic has an angry civilian with the sign "RED & BLU OUT OF TEUFORT" as part of a Funny Background Event.
- There is also a melee item called the Conscientious Objector that now allows players to wave signs around...and also kill each other with them.
- In Saints Row: The Third, you may see bystanders walking around waving signs with stuff like "Shaundi is a whore" and "No Saints in Steelport" written on them. Nothing's stopping you from killing them in a variety of nasty ways, of course.
- In SimCity, one "disaster" shows a crowd of protesters waving signs and destroying property.
- In Goat Simulator, there's a group of people protesting against penis-shaped foods.
- inFAMOUS 2 and inFAMOUS: Second Son have groups of anti-conduit protesters scattered around their respective cities who will swarm you and chant anti-conduit rhetoric. Attacking them will net you negative karma.
- The first two protest groups encountered in Postal 2 are of this variety - the first are protesting the Running With Scissors dev team moving into town, the second are protesting against books at the library. Going into those respective areas and doing the errand there causes them to ditch the signs and go for straight-up violence (shooting up the offices and setting the library on fire).
- In the Mata Nui Online Game, before you unlock the entrance to the lightstone cavern, you can see some miners protesting in the dark with signs that say "No can see no can dig" and "You can't dig what you can't see".
- Played with in an episode of The Boondocks. Huey assembles an army of sign wavers to try and shut down Jasmine's lemonade stand, but when Huey tries to start a riot, they just stand around swaying ineffectually. One of them explains that they will shut down the lemonade stand...even if it takes several years.
- On South Park the boys get roped into an anti-war protest rally, complete with signs (they only did it to get out of class). They demonstrate on TV that they don't know anything about it, pissing off Mr. Garrison.
Newsperson: Can you tell me why you marched out of school today?
Newsperson: Right and what about the war?
Kyle: It's, it's....gay?
Newsperson: Uh huh and what aspect of it do you think is most gay?
Kyle: Uh...reading the sign he's carrying No blood for oil!
Stan: Yeah. reading War is not my voice.
Bush is a nayzzi
- This was Sheila Broflovski's raison d'Ítre.
- One episode of Johnny Bravo started off with Johnny at a war protest. He was yelling, "I love pie! I love pie!", and holding a sign saying as much.
- An example from The Simpsons-in "Itchy and Scratchy and Marge", Marge's anti-Itchy and Scratchy protest, triggered by Maggie whacking Homer in the head with a mallet after she watched one of the cartoons, starts with Marge and the other family members marching outside the show's production company. Homer's sign is a detailed explanation of what happened to him and Maggie's says "Stop Me Before I Kill Again". Bart changes his sign to "Don't Ban Itchy and Scratchy". As the protest grows, additional signs include "Save the Cartoon Animals," "Bring Back Wagon Train" and "What If A Mouse Blew Up A Cat And Nobody Cared".
- There's also "Homer Badman", when a group of women protested at the Simpson house after Homer is accused of grabbing a woman's butt. Signs include "Homer Bad Man", "Homer Is A Pig" and "You Pinch, I Lynch"
- In "The Fight Before Christmas," Lisa shows her disdain for people cutting down Christmas trees by holding a sign reading "Fir Is Murder".'
- In "Scuze Me While I Miss the Sky", the town is in an uproar over Lisa's lights-out campaign because it brought about an increase in night crime. Signs include "Lighten Up, Lisa" and "I'm Pro-Light".
- Happened in Futurama with Leela and a group of protesters protesting against a Dark Matter oil rig flying too close to a penguin preserve on Pluto. The sign messages included:
Give A Hooto, Don't Pollute Pluto!
Preserve Our Useless Wasteland
Protester: (excitedly) Here they come. Oh, I hope they read my sign! (Holds up sign saying, "Go Away Tanker!")
- Parodied in the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Squid on Strike", where Squidward teaches SpongeBob how to make a picket sign protesting the Krusty Krab.
SpongeBob: How's this, Squidward? (holds up a white fence)
Squidward: Not a picket fence, you ding-dong! Picket sign!
- Red October: ALL POWER TO THE SOVIETS! OVERTHROW THE AUTOCRACY! STOP THE WAR! (later the Bolsheviks outlawed protesting they hadn't sanctioned)
- At least one Occupy rally was attended by a man carrying a sign promoting a local lunch spot.
- Another Occupy Wall Street rally featured a sign stating "I'M SO ANGRY I MADE A SIGN".
- Westboro Baptist Church is infamous for their picketing of celebrity/military funerals, popular events, or anything remotely associated with homosexuality. Inevitably, there are people who will counter-protest with signs of their own, some of which play with Westoboro's message (instead of "God Hates Fags," some will say something like "God Hates Figs"), or it'd be something completely unrelated to either Westboro's or the event's purpose ("Germany for the World Cup!")
- A picture doing the rounds on Twitter shows a respectable middle-class man at a UK protest with a sign that read "I must admit, I too am not overly fond of the present government."