Okay, I’m working off the assumption here that we’re talking protests within the country, not protests outside of it? Correct me if I’m mistaken, cause there would be a pretty big difference between the two.
And I’m not familiar with the political responses of Uzbekistan, Burma, or Cuba to protesters (well, the last one I know a bit, but not a whole lot) so I can’t say how they’d relate, per se. And how long/big protests have to be highly depends on the culture, so that’s a difficult thing to answer without more information. What I can say is that, in the US and Canada (more the US than Canada), we are heavily invested in maintaining the status quo. Those in power desperately want to keep in power, so generally they’ll either ignore or demonize protesters as much as possible. Anti-protest propaganda will be spread, lies about those involved will get out - those with the most to lose will be very against the whole thing.
Keep in mind that there are a lot of different types of protest, and a lot of different types of activism. I mean, you might even already know this, but for anyone who doesn’t: Social reform isn’t just people taking to the streets. There are a lot of background and underground actions that go into the success or failure of social activism. Some of it’s violent, some of it isn’t. Some of it’s in your face, some isn’t. How effective any of it is will depend solely on how well the activists communicate and work with each other, and how the government fights back.
Generally, there will be two or three camps in the activist circles: Anarchists, reformists, and/or mainstream activists.
The anarchists are the ones advocating to burn it all down; they’ve seen that every other way has failed, and they’re mad as hell about it and ready to do damage. This tends to get the most attention and biggest headlines, because it often involves property damage, if not human casualties. Anarchists make the biggest splashes with the least amount of people. It also tends to be the most vilified, which can then turn and help the reformists. Most anarchist groups are labeled as “domestic terrorists” - think the Black Panther party or the Earth Liberation Front.
With reformists, think Martin Luther King, Jr. These are people who work within the system to make change. Reformers can lead marches, sit-ins, campaigns against the current system that will get a lot of attention, just as anarchists do. They will definitely aim to disrupt every day life, by organizing the take-over of a street or building, putting themselves physically in the way to draw get people to listen. But they don’t call for an overhaul of the system as a whole, so it can be a little easier for reformers to get their demands - particularly if there’re anarchists causing huge blow-ups. Those in power are more likely to listen to the people marching in the street if they know the other option is those other people putting pipe bombs in their buildings.
Mainstream activists tend to stick more with the status-quo to get across their single-issue agenda. Some animal rights groups fit this idea (like the ASPCA - they call for the criminalization of those who abuse animals, whereas other activists call to get rid of criminalization all together). They’re very narrow, and tend to perform more lobbying than big presentations of power, but have their uses in the whole system.
How effective any of these are will really depend on the society you’re in. One of my professors was just telling me about how, in Italy, there was a case of a police officer shooting and killing a young boy, much like has happened countless times here in the US. The response was immediate: All over the country, from big cities to little tiny villages, people swarmed their local police stations in protest. And from what I understand, they haven’t had an incident of an officer shooting an innocent person (or at least a kid) since. All it took was once, and people came together to make sure it never happened again. But then you look at the US, or Canada, and bad shit is happening time and time again, with little changing.
Generally, the government won’t start listening until people make enough noise. What point that is will just depend on the society you’ve built. For some places, it doesn’t take much. But, as we’ve seen in the US, it can take years of fighting on all fronts for activists to get even an inch.
If you want to research more on activism and social movements, check out some of these sources:
“For Public Sociology” by Michael Burawoy
Foundations for Social Change by Daniel Faber and Deborah McCarthy
The Revolution Will Not Be Funded by Incite! Women of Color Against Violence
And I’d also look at how artists are involved in activism, because art is one of the best ways to fight against injustice. Check out places like Bluestockings in New York City - it’s a bookstore that does community organizing and activism. It’s pretty cool!