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Comment - Social Justice

How do we protest? by Douglas Coker.

Another day, another demo ... ! It was the run-up to the invasion of Iraq that got me out on the streets again. I still have the "Don't attack Iraq" badge. For several years now I've turned out on the annual Campaign against Climate Change (CCC) demo and over the last couple of years or so I've been on TUC anti-cuts/anti-austerity demos.

Iraq was invaded. Climate change, a threat multiplier, increasingly threatens life as we know it on this planet and Cameron, Osborne and Clegg stick two fingers up to those of who are not posh, privileged millionaires.

Being ignored won't stop me going out on more demos but I do wonder what else we might do. I'm reminded of the May 2008 march and demo against the third runway at Heathrow. This was not particularly well attended but when we arrived at Sipson a very clever idea was revealed. The word NO, spelt out by demonstrators holding A3 sheets of paper, was incredibly effective. (Click here to see it.) The camera crews were queueing up to use the cherry picker to take footage with of course Heathrow and aircraft taking off and landing in the background. This got prime time TV coverage. See the HACAN website for more ideas including flash mobs.

The latest poorly attended CCC demo deployed similar visual attractions with a mocked-up oil pipeline running between the US and Canadian embassies in Grosvenor Square and at the end of the march a mock-up of a fracking rig erected opposite Parliament. Again this got decent and sympathetic coverage.

Members carrying our banner on the TUC anti-cuts march, 2012

Coverage of a different sort followed the occupation of posh Piccadilly store Fortnum and Mason by UK Uncut in March 2011 during the TUC anti-cuts March for the Alternative. UK Uncut were polite and engaged in discussion with staff and customers. The police however, despite reassurances to the contrary, arrested them as they left the store. Ironically a bit earlier the blackblock anarchists "did" the Ritz. Windows were smashed and paint bombs throw. The anarchists then legged it and did not get arrested! Both actions derive from frustration as demos attended by hundreds of thousands are ignored.

In addition we now have social media and clicktivism as additional means of organisation and protest. Requests to sign this, that and the other petition are increasingly present in our in-boxes from Avaaz and 38 degrees . And there is some indication that they can be successful. Local reports about 38 degrees activity do however indicate there can be problems with accountability and a disregard for democratic procedures.

It's not clear how all this will pan out over the next years and decades. We should give new ideas a trial but let's keep a sense of perspective. We should not forget the good old-fashioned petition and letter writing campaign nor the need to get better people into government! La luta continua!! When's the next demo?

First published in the EGP members newsletter, February 2013

Published and promoted by Bill Linton for Enfield Green Party, both at 39A Fox Lane, London N13 4AJ