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Protest By Obstruction

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Protesting the destruction of something, usually a tree or building, by chaining yourself to that thing or otherwise physically blocking it off. Political protesters will often instead lock themselves to an important government building. Very much Truth in Television, going back to the suffragettes of the early 20th century.

Doing this heroically marks you as a Badass Pacifist. A less sympathetic character may be a Soapbox Sadie, a New-Age Retro Hippie, or various other flavors of Strawman Political.

If the obstruction is to prevent a person from harm rather than an object, that's Go Through Me.


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    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Ali G Indahouse, Ali G goes on a hunger strike and chains himself to the railings outside No. 10 Downing Street when he learns his local council leisure centre is going to be demolished. The two reporters who were sent to cover this pathetic display manage to make him fail simply by offering him some kentucky fried chicken.
  • The Great Race: Maggie Dubois chains herself to a men's bathroom door in the New York Sentinel newspaper building to protest the paper's policy of not hiring women. She tries to force the editor to hire her as the first female reporter for the paper.
  • Man-Thing has some environmentalists chaining themselves on Schist Company's vehicles.
  • Mary Poppins: Winfred Banks is a suffragette who discusses Emmeline Pankhurst chaining herself to the gates of Parliament.
  • Support Your Local Sheriff: Subject of a gag when Prudence unsuccessfully tries to tie herself to a post to keep from being tossed out of a public meeting led by her father the town's mayor: "Little trick she has, tyin' herself to things when she doesn't want to do something."
  • In Two Weeks Notice, Lucy and some fellow advocates lay down in front of a building to avert its destruction.

  • In the Lucy Valentine novels, Lucy mentions that her grandmother, Dovie, is an activist who chained herself to things in her youth.
  • The novel The Divide, by Nicholas Evans, has a scene with environmental activists protesting logging this way.
  • There's a reference in The Serpent's Shadow to suffragettes chaining themselves to 10 Downing Street as per the Real Life example.
  • The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy opens with Arthur lying in front of a bulldozer to prevent his house from being destroyed. Then Ford comes along and takes him away, but not without convincing the man who's supposed to be demolishing the house to take Arthur's place. That lasts for a few minutes before the man comes to his senses, but the whole thing's rendered moot when the remains of the house, along with the rest of Earth, are destroyed by Vogons.

    Live-Action TV 
  • In 3rd Rock from the Sun, Harry accidentally chains himself to a tree without knowing they were going to cut it down.
  • In The Americans, Badass Preacher Pastor Tim chains himself to the gates of an army base to protest nuclear proliferation.
  • Andromeda. A group of environmental activists chained themselves to a terraformer and ended up dying horribly.
  • Dead Gorgeous: In "Hazel's Tree", Hazel is distraught to learn that a peppercorn tree that she planted with her mother as a young girl is to be torn down to make way for a new hydraulic water pump. Posing as an unwashed, energy saving environmentalist, Hazel starts a campaign intent on educating the school on all things "green". This culminates in her and many of her schoolmates tying themselves to the tree as a protest.
  • Ted and Dougal chained themselves to the railingnote  in front of a cinema in Father Ted. Backfired spectacularly as their protest against The Passion of St. Tibulus made the film a huge success.
  • In one episode of The Golden Girls, Blanche handcuffs herself to her childhood home, unable to bear letting construction workers tear it down.
  • Hank Zipzer: In an attempt to stop Hank leaving Westbrook in "Hank's New School", Ashley, Frankie and Mr. Rock storm into Mr. Joy's office and then lock the door, glue Hank's feet to the floor, and handcuff Mr. Joy to his chair.
  • Midsomer Murders: In "Left for Dead", a group of protestors protesting a new bypass use tactics like sitting in front of the excavators, chaining themselves to a tree and to a cottage that is scheduled for demolition, etc.
  • In Monk, the titular character chains himself to a pillar in the garage where his wife was murdered, to protest the garage's impending demolition.
  • Naturally, Sadie: In "Forest for the Trees", Sadie is upset when her favourite tree is going to be cut down. She is up the tree spying on her crush Owen Anthony when Owen spots her. Owen thinks she is occupying the tree as a protest to prevent it being cut down. Rather than reveal the actual reason she was in the tree, Sadie starts staying in the tree as an actual protest.
  • Parks and Recreation
    • Leslie chains herself to the gate of mansion to preserve a historically important gazebo. Unfortunately she chained herself in such a way that the gate still opens wide enough to let the bulldozers in.
    • A particularly opinionated citizen chains themselves to the radiator in Leslie's office, vowing to stay there until Leslie agrees to put copies of the Twilight books in the latest time capsule.
  • Psych: In one case, an animal rights protestor was a suspect in a murder case, but because she had chained herself in front of a restaurant in protest of their menu, she had an obvious alibi.
  • In an episode of Riverdale Jughead and the Serpents chain themselves to Southside High in order to protest its destruction. In a major Kick the Dog moment Archie unlocks the padlocks and helps drag them away.
  • In an episode of Saved by the Bell, Jessie and Kelly protest oil drilling on campus by chaining themselves to an imitation oil drill in the main hallway. Then a nerd joins them on the drill — officially to join the protest, but really because he's a Stalker with a Crush.
  • In the first episode of Slings & Arrows, Geoffrey Tennant chains himself to his bankrupt Theatre Sans Argent. Oliver sees his protest on the news and calls him, setting in motion the events of the show.
  • So Awkward: In "Library vs. Tree", Martha is campaigning to get a new library built, but when campaigning works, they find out that Jas' favourite tree would have to be cut down. A fierce battle between Martha and Jas and their parents ensues. Jas' father constructs a tree house in the tree and takes up residence there in an attempt to prevent the tree from being cut down.
  • In an episode of The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, Cody ties himself to protect a tree in the park.
  • In one episode of The Thin Blue Line, the officers go to break up a group protesting the building of a bypass. Officer Goody encounters one protester who has tied herself to a tree, and ends up joining her.
  • In Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Cloud Cuckoolander Lillian locks herself to a piece of earthmoving equipment to protest new construction in the neighborhood. Unfortunately for her, the construction site is abandoned, and she stays there for several days without being noticed.
  • In The Vicar of Dibley's episode "Summer", Geraldine protests an attempt by the water company to turn Dibley's valley into a reservoir by chaining herself to her church. Once the media picks up on it, the main cast (except for Owen, who has a different plan) join her. Including Alice and Hugo's baby daughter, who is put in a bouncy chair chained to the church.

    Video Games 
  • Discworld II parodies this. There's a woman titled "Suffrajester" who keeps tying herself to poles and protesting that women should be allowed to become jesters. She's a bit confused about the concept though, since she tends to tie herself up in places where there's no one to hear her protesting, like at a graveyard. Rincewind will lampshade this if you speak to her, to which she replies that there aren't any convenient poles to tie herself to near the Jesters' Guild.


    Western Animation 
  • Bob's Burgers: In "Wharf Horse", construction workers begin to tear down the carousel at the Wonder Wharf to build condos. Tina attaches herself to one of the horses with a bike lock so they can't remove it.
  • In the Dan Vs. episode "Burgerphile", Dan shackles himself to the front registers of the eponymous fast food restaurant when the manager refuses to correct his order.
  • The Loud House: When Luan becomes an activist, she chains herself to a tree to save it from getting chopped down.
  • The Simpsons:
    • One time Homer and some others chained themselves to trees to protest them being cut down. Cops chased Homer around his tree, causing his chain to cut the tree down. The tree brought the whole forest down with it like dominoes.
    • Another time Homer chained himself to a pole outside the Springfield Isotopes baseball stadium as part of his hunger strike to protest their move to Albuquerque NM.
    • In "The Girl Who Slept Too Little", the Simpsons protest the proposed construction of a stamp museum next door to the Simpson house. In one scene, Bart chains himself to a giant drill, but the worker drills down anyway with him on it; Bart enjoys the experience a couple of times before he tires of it.
    • In a flashback from "Mona Leaves-a", Homer's mother says that she's going to chain herself to a nuclear submarine.
  • In Futurama Fry attempts to protest the sale of sentient creatures as fast food by handcuffing himself to the restaurant door. Unfortunately, it was a revolving door and everyone ignores him and goes past, leaving him to be dragged around.

    Real Life 
  • British suffragettes chained themselves to railings during The Edwardian Era.
  • Lt. Dan Choi and several others attached themselves to a White House fence in 2010.


Video Example(s):


Vanessa Can't Make It

When Vanessa calls up Craig, she tells him she can't pick him up because she's chained herself to a tree to keep it from getting torn down.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

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Main / ProtestByObstruction

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