George Monbiot takes us to task in The Guardian today for not doing enough to promote freedoms and the right to protest (Free to protest? I can still be arrested if my placard reads: 'Nick Clegg, oh dear') and you know something – I don’t really mind.
I’ve blogged before about how I think the right to protest should be inviolate and while I welcome the reforms of ‘The Freedom Bill’ we must keep to our promise that this is a start, and not an end to that process. So while much of George’s criticism makes me uncomfortable, it just makes me more determined to deliver on our goals. As I keep saying, if aren’t doing everything we can to give people more freedom to speak, then what’s the point?
And it’s the people who make us feel uncomfortable that we need to defend most.
I saw Paul Waugh’s tweet yesterday (@paulwaugh on Twitter) saying that the Parliament Square protestors had offered to cover up their posters for the day of the Royal Wedding. But really – should we expect them to do so? Can it be right that we allow protestors to make their case when it suits us, but as soon as they make the place look untidy we shoo them away?
Similarly I find there’s an uncomfortable grey area on the weekends protest. It’s easy and right to condemn the rioters – what they did was a disgrace. Similarly it’s right to praise the behaviour of the main body of the march that behaved impeccably (even if they were protesting against us in part).
But what of the UK Uncut protestors? It’s too easy to lump them in with the rioters (as Tom Harris mistakenly does on his blog – thanks to Guido Fawkes for giving it a wider audience). I understand they weren’t part of the protest. What they do is awkward certainly – but it’s peaceful, creative, thoughtful and effective. It’s not conventional – but does that mean we should condemn it out of hand? I don’t think so.
After all – its radical and creative thinking that gets the world changed – and if they can change the world through protest without throwing a brick through a window – then good on them.
I hope we make it easier for groups like this to protest – not harder.
I await a barrage of people now telling me why I’m wrong…