Celebrating pothole birthdays as a way to draw attention to infrastructure maintenance needs


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Recently, a number of videos have circulated online showing citizens celebrating the birthday of potholes on major roads in different countries. The videos are in protest against the condition of roads and streets, the delay in maintenance, as well as to deliver a message to those responsible to act. New tactics has gathered a few examples of those who used birthday celebrations as a way to protest against ineffective local governance.

In Lebanon, in May 2019, a citizen made a video for a pothole on the Barbara Highway. They brought a small cake and sang to the pothole for the occasion of the anniversary of its existence, and finished singing, "I wish to see you repaired." Less than 24 hours after the spread of the birthday video, the Ministry of Works moved to repair all the potholes on Barbara Highway.


In Tunisia, a citizen used a music band to celebrate the birthday of a pothole in the suburb of Karm, north of Tunis in August of 2019. The humorous protest lasted 30 days and a video clip was widely circulated on social media of the band performing birthday songs around the pothole. After the clip spread on social media, the process of repair and maintenance of the pothole began.

In Morocco, residents of the Sabila neighborhood in Fnideq, northern Morocco, in October 2019 celebrated the first birthday of a pothole in their community. It is the second time that Moroccans have resorted to this form of protest against the postponement of maintenance. Residents of the neighborhood encircled the pothole carrying candles and a birthday cake. Residents sang a “birthday song” chant, before they extinguish the candles and set out to repair the potholes themselves. The move came to protest the city's municipality not responding to their repeated complaints about the spread of potholes on the roads and the safety concerns they pose.

Similarly, residents of a neighborhood in the city of Agadir, in southern Morocco, also held a birthday party for a pothole in one of its alleyways. The ceremony was a youth initiative the neighborhood after a year-long wait for the hole to be filled. Youth, in turn, brought a birthday cake, balloons and candles, and celebrated the birthday of the pothole with dance, singing and music. The pothole appeared in a video receiving a piece of the cake with a plate and a spoon like the other young people involved. The participating youth saw that the pit as an example of larger infrastructure problems.

In the United States of America, a citizen demanded several times that the local municipality fix a pothole on a crowded road, but never received a reply. So, after three months of calls without response on July 1, 2019 they instead headed to a nearby bakery and bought a small piece of cake, a3-shaped birthday candle symbolizes the three months of the potholes existence and posted the celebration on social media. In the end, the municipality appeared the following day to fill the hole and fix the road.

In England in March 2017 in the city of Plumtree, a pothole on a major highway completed its second year of life, so the residents of the region decided to bring a cake and two candles and celebrate its birthday. When the citizens who held the party were asked about the reason for doing this Vonnie Daykin explained, “It’s dangerous for people who drive, and who cycle, because if you come to a pothole you have to swerve out in to the road which makes it unsafe for everyone. I last complained back in September or October last year and they came and said they weren’t bad enough to fix.”


New Tactics in Human Rights does not advocate for or endorse specific tactics, policies or issues.


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