Monday 23rd March

By Mark Shearer | March 23 2009

Monday 23rd March

Blog Category: General update

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    Protesting – the dawn of a new era •••? There’s lots of chat about the G20 (1st and 2nd April) and the protests being organised in London (especially around the Excel arena – where it’s being held). Protests are hugely important parts of being a democracy in my mind. If you can’t freely protest, then you can’t really be heard ••• which is never a good sign. I sometimes worry however that people just protest for the hell of it. That there’s a band of people who like to trash a few shop windows, have some argy bargy with the police and cause havoc for the hell of it. The G20 is an important one this year. The financial system has crashed (mainly initiated by the implosion of the banks) which has left the UK society counting the cost. This G20 therefore has some fire behind it – people aren’t happy about the situation, they don’t like the way they’ve been held over a barrel for the bail out, and they certainly aren’t happy about Goodwin’s bonus payments. Whilst business and capitalism is probably the highest agenda on the protest – the green remit isn’t far behind. The third runway at Heathrow is going to feature highly in the demonstrations I’m sure – as will the Kingsnorth power station plans in Kent. BUT – my one point is this. Surely demonstrations should be constructive. That doesn’t mean they can’t cause inconvenience and also get slightly heated. But, it does mean that there’s no point in a demonstration doing nothing but causing mess, intimidating people and having no defined message. Take the fuel protests. It caused carnage. It ground the country to a halt. But, it was constructive in the sense that the protest was directly linked to the perceived problem. There was no violence – and it made the country sit up and take note of how important fuel is to our everyday needs. Take Brian Hall in Westminster Square. He’s been there for years protesting against the war. He’s not trashing shop windows and punching people who pass. He’s making his point – so much so, that almost every member of parliament will know who he is and what he stands for. I read in The Guardian today that things could get out of control. There are concerns bankers could get beaten up, that people are looking to sabotage the Blackwall tunnel and people will leave empty bags on the tubes to trigger security fears. There are also reports that protestors want to drive a tank into the Excel arena and later, will phone MPs in the middle of the night as wake-up calls. How is all this constructive. I’m struggling. Are you? So, my point is this. Protesting is hugely important – and needs to be done. I’d suggest however, that it needs to be clever, cleared defined, applicable to the protest and controlled. If a load of thugs head out to smash the place and people up – it’ll cost a lot to clean up (they’re no better than the bankers), will disengage the government and could marginalise the issue from the general society.

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Mark Shearer