Protests for Peace.

By Jang Kapgen | Magazine | April 19, 2022

Cover Illustration: Protest against the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Tamara Kaňuchová / The Amsterdammer

Magazine reporter Jang Kapgen discusses the reactions of people across Europe to the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. He highlights the nature of the protests themselves and the various demands the protestors have of their own governments.

On February 24, 2022, the world stood still. We watched in shock and horror as Russia declared war and attacked Ukraine. While some saw the war coming – as Putin had been gathering his military at the border for months in advance of the attack – European governments have been naive. As millions of  Ukrainians flee into neighboring countries, European populations are reacting now with daily protests in capital cities such as Berlin, Warsaw, London and Amsterdam. With action being urgently needed, protesters stand in solidarity with Ukraine and call for their governments to do so too.

On February 27, an estimated 15,000 protesters gathered on Dam Square to call for peace in Ukraine. Dressed in Ukraine’s national colors, blue and gold, Dam Square was filled with emotion. News of the war and terrifying images from the ground had begun to circulate in the days prior, and the crowd echoed feelings of anger and disbelief. “It was a moment of pure solidarity,” remembers Lynn, a student at the UvA, explaining that “you could feel everyone’s emotion”.  Ukrainians, Russians, and many others had gathered to try to process the tragedy of the war together. The protesters were united as they listened to impassioned speeches, chanted “Praise to Ukraine” and collectively shed tears. To Lynn, standing among 15,000 people to oppose the injustice was as empowering as it was emotional.

“It was heartwarming to hear so many Slavic languages around me,” says Tamara, as she describes her experience as a Slovak student at the protest. Even though Slavic languages are very different from each other, she could understand and feel the sentiments in the speeches being given. While talking to other protesters, she felt immense solidarity between Slavic countries. Tamara describes the protest as a powerful celebration of Ukrainian-ness, and one she feels very connected to, since her “grandparents live in a city close to the Ukrainian border and many Ukrainians live there”. 

Protest against the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Tamara Ka?uchová / The Amsterdammer

Nevertheless, as several protests for Ukraine overlapped at the same time and place, it became difficult to consolidate sentiments and goals. “We also weren’t sure if all the protests had the exact same goals, as we did not want to protest for something we did not believe in,” as Tamara acknowledges, “the organizers probably did not expect this many people to show up.” While many of the protests that day had the goal to actively show solidarity towards Ukraine, many activists put forward clear demands on European politicians. To mention a few among the many: Ukraine should be allowed to join the European Union; NATO should close the Ukrainian sky for Russian aircrafts; and severer sanctions should be imposed on the Russian elite. Every protest has its own demands worthy of consideration.

One thing is clear: Ukraine is in a state of terror and war. People are dying while being forced to flee – and the European Union needs to help. Protests are one tool for the population to show their opinion and to pressure for a clear political reaction. “I went to the protest feeling powerless but left feeling – at least a bit – more empowered,” as Lynn recounts. This empowerment needs to transfer to the highest ranks of Europe’s politicians so that the war ends as soon as possible.

If you want to know more about the next protests in your city, visit to find protests near your location!

Jang Kapgen is a student at the University of Amsterdam. The views expressed here are not necessarily those of The Amsterdammer. 

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