A thousand people in the street
Singing songs and carrying signs
Mostly saying, 'hooray for our side'"
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.
Positive Support Examples:
- One of Progressive's semi-regular campaigns involves a guy with a sign which reads that drivers who save with Progressive save over $750 on average. In one ad he finds himself standing next to another guy who's advertising condos who says that people will look at his condo sign because the insurance sign is pointing at it. So the Progressive guy flips his sign around so it's pointing in the opposite direction.
- Achille Talon has a strip where the locals advertise an upcoming block party by parading around with signs reading "Fete de quartier! Grand repas de sanglier!" (Block Party- Boar Banquet). Unfortunately, what with everyone jostling and walking at different speeds, they ended up reading "Fete du sang! pas de quartier!" (Feast of Blood! No Quarter!)
- 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.
- In Disaster on the Coastliner, crowds of bystanders stand by the tracks, holding signs for the hijacker that say things like "Stop," "Why Murder," and "Jesus Loves All." One group of young people holds a large banner that says "Why do it?"
- Change of Habit: Enraged by the cashier's unfair treatment of Hispanic customers, Barb makes a sign that says "AJAX GROCERIES UNFAIR TO CUSTOMERS" and sits by the counter giving speeches until she's arrested.
- For What It's Worth by Buffalo Springfield mentions this.
- 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".
- In 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 Steven Universe episode "Mindful Education", Garnet makes a sign that says "Go Steven + Connie" on one side and "Go Stevonnie" on the other and waves it around encouragingly while Steven and Connie train together when they're fused.
- The Simpsons:
- In "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 "How I Wet Your Mother", the family journeys into Homer's subconscious dreams and encounter a group of mothers who are for drunk driving. Signs include "Sobriety is Boring", "Booze It or Lose It" and "My Other Car is Wrapped Around a Tree".
- In "Strawberry Fields Forever" from Beat Bugs, "Strawberry Fields Forever" becomes a sort of protest cry as the Beat Bugs carry and wave signs with drawings of strawberries as they try to chase away the myna birds that are wrecking the strawberry fields.
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?"
- Wonder Girl Vol 1: There are a bunch of protesters all over the place holding signs protesting something about Amazons Attack, which while vile is rather pointless as at this point the Amazons—besides Wonder Woman who had been fighting the invaders—had been wiped from the face of the earth. The most common is "Blunder Girl," which makes sense as Cassie and Kara grabbed such a potent Idiot Ball during Amazons Attack that they though attacking Air Force One and kidnapping the president would somehow help matters.
- One The Far Side cartoon depicted a protest by the Imbeciles Of America, whose signs were of course crudely made, misspelled, held upside down, etc.
- In Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, when Superman appears at the Capitol building for a Senate committee meeting, several people are holding signs protesting his presence on Earth: "Superman is an Illegal Alien" and "Earth is for humans."
- 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: 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 has 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".
- The Montana IPB base in TheInfected is picketed against several times, despite being in the wilderness thirty miles from the nearest town. More often than not, this is a cover for an attack. Though when a handful of people show up to picket the IPB's Fourth of July cookout, they're invited in and help themselves to burgers and hot dogs.
- Also there is a riot squad formed specifically to keep a number of anti-Infected demonstrations from getting out of hand.
- 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".
- In Interesting Times the rebels try to Wave Signs Around but because they're still indoctrinated into what can best be described as "Japanese Politeness Up to Eleven" the signs aren't very strongly worded. They say things like "Slightly Bad Things Please Happen To Our Enemies."
- In Jingo Vimes sees a sign that reads GREASY FORANE HANDS OFF LESHP.
- Both the novel and the film based on it of The Pelican Brief open with people waving signs around saying stuff like "Death to Rosenberg," "Retire Rosenberg," and "Cut off the oxygen," the last of those being Rosenberg's favorite.
- Father Ted and Dougal protesting outside a cinema (see the Moral Guardians page image). "Down with this sort of thing!" "Careful now!"
- How I Met Your Mother: Ted has to wrestle with a crowd of protesters who don't want the Arcadia, a beloved old building, to be torn down.
- In Bewitched, Samantha and her Aunt Clara, along with Clara's friends Bertha and Mary, are pissed off at a Halloween candymaker's insistence on a stereotypical ugly old crone for his mascot. They prepare to stage a protest in his home. Their signs read Brinkman Unfair to Witches, Witches are People Too, but absent-minded Clara, reminded she needs a sign, zaps up the first thing she thinks of: Vote for Coolidge.
- On The Daily Show, when Jon Stewart announced his "Rally to Restore Sanity", he showed some toned-down protest signs he produced for the rally, including, "I Disagree With You, but I'm Pretty Sure You're Not Hitler", "Got Competence?", "9/11 Was an Outside Job!" and "Legalize Pot".
Jon: I don't know how that last one got in there, we didn't write it. I think this is what happens when signs breed.
- Schitt's Creek: After Moira gives an interview to People Magazine saying she dislikes living in the town, protesters show up at at City Hall with the most Canadian angry protest signs ever including "If you can't say something nice..." and "We're unhappy with you, Moira." and "That wasn't very nice!"
- On 24: Live Another Day, there are a number of people in a crowd in Britain protesting a drone program by President Heller with signs saying things like "No more drones" while chanting similar slogans.
- In the Red Dwarf episode "Polymorph", Rimmer is reduced to doing this after the eponymous emotion-eating monster sucks out all of his anger.
- An episode of Modern Family has Mitch and Cam drawn into protesting a restaurant while unaware of what it has actually done, so they show up with signs saying merely "stop doing what you're doing" and "shame!".
- The Partridge Family: In "Forgive Us Our Debits," a department store's computer accidentally charges Shirley $2900 for a $29 cuckoo clock. Laurie pays a group of protesters-for-hire to march outside the store waving anti-computer signs and chanting "Up with humans! Down with machines!"
- Daredevil (2015): Wilson Fisk's release in season 3 is greeted with protesters who take up shop outside the Presidential Hotel with slogans like "STOP AND FISK HIM".
- Stranger Things: Season 3 episode 2 sees Hopper get pressured by Mayor Larry Kline into breaking up a protest outside City Hall regarding the new Starcourt Mall that's put local mom and pop stores out of business. Hopper is reluctant to do so until Larry more or less threatens his job (while condescendingly announcing plans to throw a big Fourth of July bash for the purpose of distracting voters from these protests come November).
- In the opening of "Ring Around the Rosie" from The Mentalist, the CBI is working an immigration rally with a bunch of people waving signs saying things like "We are not thugs," "Stop targeting immigrants NOW!!" and "Legalize aliens." After someone is stabbed to death in the area, Patrick Jane quickly zeroes in on the one guy in the area who isn't waving a sign and who is standing around looking shifty with crazy eyes and wearing a big overcoat in hot weather as a suspect.
- The Barenaked Ladies song "Angry People" almost drops the trope name:
In a square, a thousand angry people are
Waving signs in the air
While a million other happy people are
Trying hard not to care
- While he was managing Dino Bravo, Frenchy Martin regularly carried a sign saying "USA Is Not OK".
- During WCW's last year on TV, it was very common to see signs that read:
"I'd Rather Be At Raw"
"We Can't Wrestle"
"Wheel Chair Wrestling" - a reference to WCW's hiring of older, often-injured wrestlers.
- Subverted by WWE, who regularly confiscate signs that portray the company or John Cena in a negative light.
- The Real Americans' manager Zeb Colter would often come to the ring with protest signs to fit his anti-immigration persona such as 'ILLegals make me ill".
- In a 2017 episode of The Now Show, Ivo Graham describes spending an entire day before a protest march trying to think of a witty placard slogan (and acknowledging that this was kind of making it about him, rather than the thing he was protesting). Unfortunately, the pressure got too much for him.
Graham: So if you're wondering, I was the guy on BBC News wandering around Parliament Square waving a blank piece of cardboard. What a thrillingly postmodern act of defiance that was! And not just any cardboard, but an old Amazon Prime package, 'cos that's the kind of mixed message I like to send: Down with elites, down with capitalism, but I still want my books delivered by midday tomorrow.
- Comes up a few times in Newsies, given that the plot revolves around the Newsie strike of 1899. In the first day of protest, Crutchie shows Jack and the others that he's made a sign and attached it to his crutch. The others congratulate him for his effort, but Racetrack says it's "pathetic". Later at the rally, each of the boroughs is holding up a sign for their respective neighborhood.
- 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 & BLUE 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.
- In FAMOUS 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).
- The icon for a citizen who is peacefully protesting against Presidente's rule in Tropico 4 is a picket sign, although (due to technical constraints) the actual protest is just one citizen declaiming at a crowd.
- 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".
- Kingdom of Loathing: Late in the Pastamancer Nemesis quest, on your nemesis's secret volcano lair, you encounter one (1) protestor who is trying to spread the word of the Spaghetti Cult's evilness, by standing on the edge of the island waving around a sign that says "THE SPAGHETTI CULT IS A CULT". Also, a second, smaller sign saying "And it sucks!"
- RWBY Chibi: In Season 2 Episode 9, Neo attends a protest where everyone is holding up signs. The signs indicate everyone's there to protest different things, including the teachers (and Weiss) who are campaigning for more homework for students, and the students who are campaigning for less homework. Neo herself holds up a megaphone as if she's going to announce something to the crowd before simply putting it away and also holding a sign: "THIS IS JUST HOW I TALK!"
- A demonstration in Bad Machinery featured this with, as pictured above, rather polite signs reading "FLIPPING KROPOTKIN" and "COME ON NOW".
- In xkcd, an audience member at a politician's speech holds up the sign "". Another strip talks about showing up with "contented" signs at rallies ("THINGS ARE PRETTY OKAY!")
- Why should The Bible get all the free advertising? Mountain Time has a scene with people holding up signs at a football game, including John 3:16, Titus Andronicus 2.4, and Hop On Pop p.43.
- In Bruno the Bandit a bunch of dragon rights protestors had at least one misspelled sign.
- 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 the South Park episode "I'm a Little Bit Country", 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?
Stan: Uh... war.
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.
Cartman: reading Bush is a nayzzi!
- This was Sheila Broflovski's raison d'être.
- 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 & Scratchy & 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 "Scuse 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".
- In "Mr. Plow", Homer has a Imagine Spot of him helping George HW Bush sneak valuable art works out from the White House by plowing through the protesters. Signs include "Forget the Alamo", "I dislike Ike" and "Pay me not to work".
- The "Trumptastic Voyage" web video shows supporters of Donald Trump holding signs saying "Paid" and "Vote".
- Happened in the Futurama episode "The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz" 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
Free Chilly Willy
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!
SpongeBob: How about this? (holds up a sign with a picture of a man picking his nose)
- 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!")
- When they protested one of the Comic-Cons, there were counter-protest signs that said things like "God Hates Jedi" being carried by a Darth Vader cosplayer.
- 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."
- Protests held in Ireland often feature the signs mentioned from the Father Ted example listed above.
- At a protest in the U.S. in 2016 note , a man was photographed carrying a sign that read, "Not usually a sign guy, but geez!"
- A publicity stunt for the film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes had a mob of women parading in front of Grauman's Chinese Theatre declaring the film to be "Unfair to brunettes and redheads!"
- Dogma attracted some protests for what the protestors considered its disrespectful treatment of religion. Kevin Smith joined one such protest, bemusedly noting that none of the others had bothered to make a sign as nice as his. None of the other protesters recognized him either, funnily enough