So, UK government have been accused of attempting a ban on protest inside a mammoth new piece of legislation that includes major new government proposals on law and justice.
Among other things like longer sentences for spitting at the police, the bill will also give police more precise powers to restrict demonstrations
It includes wording that seems almost intentionally vague. Such as section 59, which states “A person commits an offense if the person does an act that a section of the public finds to be a serious annoyance.”
A serious annoyance! You know – Like being Noisy, or disruptive. Otherwise known as, protesting.
The government are literally telling people right now that this doesn’t restrict your right to protest whilst at the same time literally enshrining restrictions to that right into law. It’s infuriating.
It’s like trying to argue with KellyAnne Conway. Facts literally don’t matter any more to these people.
Let me try and explain why they’re doing this, you see, I’ve reported from many protests over the last 4 years. I’ve logged reports from the People’s Assembly march against austerity, as well as marches for the victims of Grenfell Tower. I covered the extinction rebellion protests extensively. I’ve reported live from Pro-Brexit protests, anti-Brexit protests, Pride, Black Lives Matter, anti-authoritarian Million Mask Marches and of course, I’ve covered countless Julian Assange protests and hearings.
Quite proud of that long list, actually.
Anyway, I’ve spoken to many, many protesters of all ages, genders, colors and creeds and from every feasible position of the political spectrum, and I’d the main reason they protest is to do 2 things:
- To inform the general public of an injustice
- To do it while by either being loud as possible, or by gaining as much press as possible by doing so.
The protests I went to which were ignored and had the least impact, without a doubt, were the state-sanctioned ones that caused the least disruption.
The People’s Assembly march against austerity, or instance, was a lovely day out. Wonderful, caring people. They marched from the BT Tower to Trafalgar square with a police van putting out cones in front of them, and another behind the protest loading them back into a truck. Caused minimal fuss. It was so well organized as they set off plumes of purple smaoke and chanted “NO borders, no nations, stop deportations”, the shops totally forgave the disruption, since they were spending so much time in the shops while en route.
If they wanted to use the bathroom, store policy meant they had to make a purchase, you see.
It kind of detracts from the overall anti-imperial anti-capitalist message when you’re spending a good portion of the protest queuing for a Frappachino at Starbucks.
I vaguely remember another protest which was equally as ineffective. Can’t for the life of me remember what it was for, but It also ended at Trafalgar Square where Owen Jones made a wonderful speech. At least that’s what I heard. Unfortunately I had to leave literally the moment he started talking, but I remember it was a lovely day. Beautiful and sunny.
Those are the examples of what I have seen is an ineffective protest: A lovely day out, but one which inconveniences very few, and reaches the hearts and minds even fewer.
The government are going to love those, aren’t they?
Effective protests however, well they’re who this bill is going after. Or rather – Effective sustained actions of civil disobedience. i-e- protests which scare the crap out of the right people and made the whole world take notice.
Protests like the Extinction Rebellion. That’s who these new targeted restrictions are aimed at.
Whether you agree with their motives or their tactics or not, there’s no argument: The Extinction Rebellion Protests made a huge impact.
Some called it a “quasi-religious death cult”, such was the extent the protesters occupation and disruption they caused in London that week in 2019.
I literally watched the police arrest people while a huge crowd of moms, dads and hippies sang “we love you, we’re doing this for you, too” as they carried their comrades away to be charged. A crowd who had sent dedicated people to wait outside the police stations for them to be released with hot soup and sandwiches, and a lift back to wherever the protest was focused that day.
I met people that day who literally could not wait to get arrested. One guy I spoke to was incredibly excited about it and a few hours later we saw he’d he got his wish. You might remember seeing pictures of him with his hands glued to the mast of a bright pink boat that had been parked in the middle of Oxford Circus for a week.
The amount of money wasted on policing at that event was staggering. Bless them, for 5 days thousands of cops had no idea how they could stop it. I spoke to them. They knew what they were doing was a fruitless, useless task. But the protesters were lovely and respectful to them, there was hardly any trouble at all. They were getting paid, it was sunny out, all they could do was what they were told.
It was like they were trying to stop the wind.
That was an effective protest. A sustained period of civil disobedience that made those ignoring the climate crisis stand up and take note.
There were a reported 3700 arrests in the space of just over a week, with around 1700 charged. Around half of those plead guilty, but the rest went to court or are still awaiting a date. All that fallout from just a few days co-coordinated action, almost 2 years ago, and the courts still haven’t caught up.
Imagine if that happened again, but next time it went on for a month.
It’s a problem for the government. And that’s who they’re trying to target. It’s not protests they’re trying to ban – it’s inconvenient ones like Julian Assange protests that will be targeted, and effective ones like the XR
Clever, isn’t it?
Our government are effectively outlawing, effective protest. They’re making it so the only protests which will be allowed in our future, are the well-organized, fluffy convenient protests, where everyone has a lovely day out and the stores along the route they travel make a fortune.
Now even protests will help Corporate Capitalism.
They’ll tell us we can’t protest unless we’re vaccinated, next.
I really shouldn’t give them ideas, should I?
Before you go….
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