Protest

Last Saturday I was amongst the throng of people that descended on London to protest the government’s austerity cuts. Whilst I wasn’t formally protesting with any organization, I still thought it useful to go and see the action for myself.

Naturally, since then many of the grievances put forward by the marchers have been lost in the discussion about violence, and violent acts committed by the almost predictable cluster of excitable idiots that turn up at every protest to pick a fight with the police or the windows of high street chains. This doesn’t tend to win any sympathy for their cause and drags the cause of the actual protest through the mud.

The violent types always make me cringe. I saw a few on the day and they were stereotypical to say the least. Most of them were people of my age or younger with little in the way of a thought out political agenda apart from rebellion in general. They were just angry idiots that wanted to smash things because they saw this as a semi-legitimate context. Not to mention that most of them spent the day getting drunk before going to take out their frustrations on the 2012 Olympic clock and the police.

Ultimately the violence has no place in any discussion about the march and its aims. They are linked, but are created from separate sources. It’s also irritating that since Saturday, Emperor Palpatine-alike Home Secretary, Theresa May, has decided to stick her boot into the matter by suggesting new draconian powers – such as banning troublemakers from protests - against the thugs. Good idea in principle, but why do I get the impression that this will just mean that policing at protests will become more heavy handed again and that legitimate protestors will start being banned under the vague pretense of “disturbing the peace”. Isn’t the whole point of civil disobedience to disturb the peace in some manner (without resorting to setting fire to a Starbucks of course)?

Overall however I wasn’t very impressed with the march on Saturday. I had hoped it would have been bigger and would have been less a coverall protest for anything from women’s rights to the conflict in Libya. They may as well called it ‘the march against any issue we consider rather unpleasant today’.

I personally went hoping to see people stand up against public service cuts and to defend threatened institutions like the NHS and other public services (the BBC being amongst them, as I still maintain that the license fee is better value for money than any other media package offered by any other broadcaster – Yes! Especially Sky!). That’s not saying that it didn’t happen, many of the families and workers marching were making themselves heard. It’s just a shame that those who got up to speak at the main rally were, in the most part, flimsy. The speakers in Hyde Park were atrocious and considering that the near-invisible Labour leader Ed 'Hide and Seek' Miliband was one of the most important to appear, who can say it was going to be anything else but mediocre.

In any case the government has already said that they won’t listen to those marching on Saturday, which makes you wonder if there are any practical forms of legitimate political expression left.

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