Although past research has failed to establish a link between protest and policy change, we reexamine the relationship at the agenda-setting stage of policymaking. We assert that protestors compete for attention among lawmakers at the agenda-setting stage. An issue receives more attention when the frequency of protest activity around a particular issue is sufficiently high for that issue to stand out within the field of competing issues. We examine this process by analyzing the factors associated with increasing and fluctuating attention to rights-related issues in Congress. We find that protest, issue legitimacy and issue competition account for variation in the number of congressional hearings granted to rights issues.