27 Mar 2011

Puppet Show Protests

The protests went as anticipated. The majority of people, many of whom will be redundant in 4 days, marched calmly through London surrounded by Union Officials, Police Officers and press.

The BBC has been quite good at maintaining the "majority were peaceful" line.

However, inevitably, the [violence] [anarchistic] {scuffles] [turmoil] or [tempest] as various journalists have referred to the less peaceful marches, have stolen many headlines.

I watched with discerning horror as various shots on BBC News depicted fights, broken windows, paint bombs, fireworks and other antisocial ranging through to criminal behaviour took place.

The Hype

Aggrandized social networking had set the scene for a modern Punch and Judy, it was just ascertaining who would appropriate which role.

In the previous protests, students have been quick to cry foul over Police Brutality, accuse and actively engage violent behaviour.

Yet yesterday there was very litte evidence of Judy with her rolling pin. No police had riot shields, no weapons, and their regimentary lines to calm rampant protestors were standard calming proceedure.

In direct contrast, Punch had armed himself with a selection of premeditated weapons. Rather than the spade seen in student protests in September (who carries a spade with them on the off chance?!), protestors, menacing in black with balaclavas, were armed with lightbulbs full of amonia, spray cans, and anything else they saw fit to collect on their way.

With the twitterverse pounding with hashtags like #march26 #tarhirsq #trafalgursq #ukuncut #march26march et al, the drums were beating for drama.

And twas ever thus

While Milliband egotistically compared himself to Martin Luther King (there's a whole other blog post in this!), the BBC cameras panned to the menacing thugs attacking Topshop and swifting moving to Fortnum and Mason.

With bits of fence going through windows of banks, police officers being set on fire, the trite anarchy symbol being sprayed every where and continous soundbites from Labour, I was watching at home, glad I didnt attend.

Much criticism was put about Laurie Penny, the Independent writer, who felt the need to castigate the police and continue to encourage illegal and demonstrative violence through social media channels. A badly written (oh the irony) puts is quite well;

"For too long now she has been allowed to spread her vile and one side biased views of the protest and the whole events around them...[to satisfy] her own feeling of self importance"

But even without poisonous journalists encouraging violence to their own gains, the collective attacks on buildings which, to protestors, symbolised the extremeties of social divide were escalating.

Risks of Anonimoty

Good old UK Uncut, whom I think of as a modern day, twitter charged Robin Hood gang, have taken great risks by maintaining an air of mysteriousness.

While they decided to occupy Fortnum and Mason, who are charged with legal but ammoral tax avoidance by the young gangs, others descended on the store outside.

There is still dispute as to whether these youths, carrying Anarchy flags and wearing balaclavas, were in fact members of #UKUncut or not.

They adorned the outside of the building with UK Uncut slogans, claimed to be part of the (and I am loathe to call them but) movement, threw fireworks and flares at the police and actively prevented police from stopping other protestors from joining in, no doubt contributing to those injured, police and protestors alike.

I commented that I went to make a cup of tea and when I returned, UK Uncut had lost all of their credibility. Others have stated that it was not UK Uncut outside.

But that is the risk the UK Uncut take with their anonymity.

If they are serious about challenging society's norms and social divide, hiding behind badly written yet powerful articles simply gives others the opportunity to discredit them.

However, if the gang of trouble makers were not legitimate representatives of UK Uncut, then comments like this do not help to dispell the myth;

"Civil disobedience has a long tradition of driving forward progressive change and we are here to send a powerful message"

Disobedience is an interesting word.

"lack of obedience or refusal to comply; disregard or transgression"

There is something of an irony in this.

UK Uncut are demanding that the Government comply with them by changing tax legislation to more fairly redistribute wealth around the country.

To apply this lobby, they are the epitome of civil obedience, calming registering protests with the police, quietly occupying and proclaiming allegiance with Che Guevara and Ghandi. Neither of whom were demonstrative violent protestors.

Further illogical interpretation then, and I will refrain from comments on education necessary to enter university.

So if UK Uncut proclaim necessary civil disobedience, and deny active violence, how can one know what they stand for or who they are?

Trafalgur Square

Representative of political and social freedom, Trafalgar Square was the coda of the day, filled with what some referred to as a party.

Some party if it resulted in kettling.

Further damage and devestation was had, as young people failed yet again to get their message accross.

And the point of it all

Well, the meaning behind the violence is somehow lost in translation.

Protesting against cuts was the aim in the TUC march. This was a peaceful demonstration even if the leader of the Labour party felt he was a hero.

But what exactly was the aim in the UK Uncut and associated violences?

Rather like Punch and Judy, it seems it was just a sensationalised and futile exercise in entertainment.

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