What is the best form of protest in the 21st Century?
One of the cornerstones of any true democracy is the right to freedom of speech and to peacefully protest against injustice wherever it is one sees it.
It has a vital role to play in society; not only does it help keep our politicians in check, many of whom seem to have difficulty retaining integrity and any sort of moral standard when given the sniff of power, but to also highlight atrocities taking place, out of the publics sight, to fellow caring citizens.
Up until recently these two basic human rights have been, in large, respected. However, it seems that, right now, civil liberties are being eroded by the day. The public are sleepwalking into a police state. For any of you who haven't been to a protest or demonstration in the last year or two, the powers and authorisation given to police, and the tactics they use, have changed dramatically, especially since the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 – an act ironically being used on protesters against Britain's production of Weapons of Mass Destruction!
While technically we still have the right to demonstrate, the reality is much different. Tactics such as 'Kettling' are now being used to take the steam out of protests – the result of which means, in effect, you cannot demonstrate – or eat, walk, urinate or crap for that matter – whilst the government retains the facade of 'freedom of speech'. During one such operation at the recent G20 summit, a man was arrested for urinating in a garden – the reality was it was either that or hold it in for four hours as he wasn't allowed to go anywhere.
The police have, evidently, been authorised from above to be a lot more violent. There is no shortage of video footage of this on the internet for those who, for whatever reason, don't or can't make it to the events themselves.
The most shocking case of all is that of Ian Tomlinson – not because of the act itself but because he was attacked whilst minding his own business. It resulted in this man dying from a heart attack moments after being assaulted by a 'so-called keeper-of-the-peace'. If this was a member of the public they'd be up for manslaughter today – because its a policeman, this attack may not even get an inquiry.
But there are literally tonnes of examples of this – these 'riot police' attacked peaceful protesters with batons at the same march, even though they had their hands raised in the air and were correctly crying 'This is not a riot!' (it was just a march), to the 'riot' police! For more of the same, check out this also.
At Climate Camp 2008, the amount of stuff getting confiscated from protesters was simply unbelievable, from balloons to bike locks, crayons and clowns outfits.
In Ireland, those protesting against Shell's massive attempt to trample over local people and destroy their local area, in its quest for more cheap gas reserves, were treated with some of the most brutal police tactics I have ever been informed off, with one officer literally throwing a kid into a ditch (and later an OAP off camera). I had two friends at that protest – one as a police officer, the other as a protester, and all three of us played on the same football team for years and were good friends. Yet at this protest my old friend, now the police officer, just stared at my friend and his old team mate, and threateningly told him to go home, or else. These two friends of mine have both gone down different paths in life – one is dedicating his life to the protection of those without a voice, the other to violently opposing it – question is, which do you think is which?
It is crazy - those who join the police to help protect people are now arresting and attacking those whose only crime is to want the same – the people who are passionately and compassionately standing up for humans, the planet and the other species we share it with are now getting years in prison under the terrorism act.
This is just one aspects of things – the biggest problem is the lies they feed to the media to discredit every protest or activist group, making them look like potential terrorists, when in fact the only violent terror-inducing people at the events are usually themselves. My biggest fear is that if the government make peaceful protest impossible then violent protest becomes inevitable, and I think you would have to be pretty naïve to believe they don't realise that and secretly want it, as it would then allow them to justify even greater inroads into civil liberties. How do we even know that the violent looking 'anarchist' that the Daily Mai's photographer just happens to be beside isn't in fact an undercover officer planted to discredit the protest. Again I think you would have to be pretty naïve to rule it out.
And all this is only the start – we really are sleepwalking into a police state. There is talk of CCTV on almost every street in the UK. If the public have Google Earth, what do the intelligence agencies have? Tesco use a camera system that allows them to visually scan and grade a potato from 71 different angles, a system bought from the Israeli government that was used to monitor Palestinians. Do we think our own government haven't got the same?
If you are arrested, police are now allowed to take DNA samples along with a whole host of other details, even if you were falsely detained and not even charged. At protests and demonstrations they compile tonnes of information on people they don't even arrest. They are intent on introducing ID cards eventually, something that will contain data that even George Orwell wouldn't have imagined, and demand that we carry them at all times.
The question that all peaceful activist groups are asking themselves now, is how do they dynamically respond to this whole situation – the police have changed the rules dramatically so how do we peacefully react to this in an effective manner?
For me, there are two methods that we all must immediately take.
The first is indirect, though I truly believe that 'indirect' and 'direct' are effectively the same thing. Every time you buy something, you vote. Every time you don't buy something, you protest. If we stop buying the 'stuff' the IMF's £1,000,000,000,000 package wants us to buy, there is no police tactic on the planet that can stop us. So in solidarity with the Shell protesters in Ireland, stop or even just reduce your dependency on oil. I would say don't buy from Shell but even they are seen as the most ethical oil company apparently, which says very little for the others given the fact that they had a peaceful protester, Ken Saro Wiwa, executed not so long ago for defending indigenous rights in the Niger Delta. If you want to protest against banks, stop using them, it really is possible, neither me or my neighbour Martin have a bank account and we get by just fine. If you want to protest against animal cruelty, go vegan and send a link to Earthlings to everyone you know. The list goes on – refusing to be a consumer (as opposed to a human) is the best method of protesting in a century where all sorts of civil liberties are being taken away. By giving an organisation your money you are giving them a form of your energy. If you don't like the repercussions of what they do, stop supporting – no politician on earth can force you to buy something, and where you put your pounds, euros and dollars really is the new vote.
The second type is more direct – if you go to demonstrations to stand up for those without a voice, keep doing it; if you don't, then start. And be prepared to take blows for it, but to never return them, and not only will the media have to report on the incredible injustice of it all, I believe it will eventually effect the officers who today are acting so brutally. It worked for Gandhi in India's Independence movement, and it can work today – the government lost the moral high-ground and independence quickly followed. The soldier of peace, the Satyagrahi, has for too long now not been as brave as the soldier of war. We need to be prepared to stand up for our rights and for those who need us at the cost of even our own lives, but never someone else's – if we strike back we are no different to the oppressor.
Don't get me wrong, there are lots of good police officers out there, this is not an attack on them. I just wish only one of them had the courage to really protect the public and to publicly defy orders when they believe them to immoral. Can you imagine what would happen if just one police officer crossed the illusory border and joined the protesters for 'health and safety' reasons? It could almost start a revolution.
THE FREECONOMY BLOG is written by Mark Boyle, founder of The Freeconomy Community. Guest writers are always welcome. If you want to respond, debate or ask questions, please just comment below; you will have to sign in first.
Comment on this Post:
beth tilston comments ...
Great post Mark!
Des Troy comments ...
Right on Mark. Multinationals live and die by consumerism. We have to slowly suffocate them by refusing to buy their blood soaked products. In time, the internet will co-ordinate concerted action in boycotting the worst offenders.
Here is another terrifying development which seems to have slipped under the radar of most people; the term, 'too big to fail'.
If any employee was told. "you are too important to fire", how would they then behave?
Mark comments ...
I agree wholeheartedly Des. I also find it shocking that governments refuse to interfere in the market when families in Africa are dying from starvation and disease, but the minute a Chief Executive messes things up then intervention comes without question.
Is a western job worth more than an African life?
The Green Fool comments ...
thought you were going to focus on the more positive stuff, or is that just my job ;-)
Jo comments ...
Thanks so much for covering this. Not enough people are talking about this stuff. If you want an eye-witness account of the G20 protests see my latest blog entry at www.alongwayfromeden.blogspot.com
Mark comments ...
Great blog Jo, its such an important issue.
I was just sent this link too about a new EU directive that will force all Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to retain all info from all emails and websites visited by everyone.
Government has already access to data through phonecalls and text messages by the way, so if you are in an activist group I'd advice you to do most of your talking face to face.
Being compassionate is becoming more and more a crime. Just don't stop caring regardless.
Mark comments ...
Oops, forgot the actual link to the EU directive I mentioned above; here it is:
Great to be sharing the planet with you all!
HJK comments ...
Hey lover, how goes it? Haven't read any of your blogs for a long long time - or been on this site. I've been very preoccupied and will bring you up to date in a private email. Police are mostly all shits so let's not gloss over anything here. The mere fact that you can't join the police force at constable level if you're too intelligent should speak volumes!
Anyway, I haven't had time to go through all your blogs so have you written anything about Codex Alimentarius? Sounds scary.
Well Mr. B, hope you're keeping warm, happy and healthy and hope to hear from you soon. Take care, much love. xxxxxx X
Robert Howes comments ...
Long time no blog! It can be hard to keep blogging a dead horse, forgive the joke. But seriously, a short blog per day, just of your day's activities, in brief (got up, had a crap, went to bed), but not too brief, would keep us coming back for more. Maybe it's difficult for you to get to a computer.
All the best anyway,
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