How to protest with banknotes

Viral Messaging, Iran

The dying woman pictured on this Iranian banknote is Neda Agha-Soltan. In June 2009, a video of her murder at an anti-government protest went viral and became part of a growing wave of online dissent. In response, the authorities suppressed national telecommunications. Facing brutality on the street and an Internet blackout, protestors began defacing money to spread their message.


How to protest with banknotes

There are 182 currencies in circulation across the world today, and they all reach more people than leaflets and petitions. Use them to carry your message.


In March 2011, Palestinian activists started writing “Free Palestine” in English on banknotes. Their currency, the shekel, is shared with Israel, so the slogan slipped easily from Ramallah in the West Bank, where it started, to the other side of the border.



2. Stamp

To attack Russia’s ruling party, activist Alexei Navalny began stamping “United Russia is a party of crooks and thieves” on Russian rubles in June 2012. According to his calculations, if 5,000 people stamp 100 notes each, the slogan will reach all 143 million Russians.



3. Print

In October 2011, two San Francisco-based designers created infographics explaining unequal wealth distribution in the United States and printed them on dollar bills. They also published them online, so that fellow Americans could print them on their own banknotes.



Other ways to protest using money
1. Move it

Over five weeks in 2011, 650,000 Americans closed their accounts in commercial banks and moved the money to member-owned financial cooperatives. The movement was partly a protest against an unpopular fee that had been introduced by Bank of America.


2. Make change

When a US judge ordered Roger Herrin to return insurance money he had received from his son’s death and share it with other victims of the accident, he protested by paying US$150,000 in coins: 3.6 tonnes of quarters packed in 150 transparent bags.

3. Print your own

In August 2011, the Italian government proposed a merger between the small town of Filettino and its rival, Trevi. Filettino protested by declaring independence from Italy and creating its own currency, the Fiorito. To date, Filettino remains unmerged.


4. Burn it

In July 2010, Swedish political party Feminist Initiative publically barbequed 100,000 Swedish krona (US$16,000). That sum, they claimed, is how much income Swedish women lose every minute due to the gender wage gap.



From the pages of COLORS #88 - Protest.