There are currently a lot of people saying that protesting right now, or protests that are partly violent or that encounter police violence is counterproductive.
There is absolutely no historical or social scientific basis for making such claims. Those who make them are pretty much always just expressing their own preferences.
I’ll make four points here.
1. Almost all successful protest anywhere in the world have some kind of violent element or confrontations with the police.
Just looking at this country, we can look to the Poll Tax, the Suffragettes or even the BLM protests last year. There are of course also many such movements that end in defeat, like Orgreave. But the reasons for success or defeat are much broader and more complex than whether there has been confrontation with police.
2. The confrontational part is always only one small part of the whole movement, but it is one that receives attention and can put the issue in people’s minds.
That is true for the current moment too. Loads of people are doing things actively to oppose this Bill on and off the streets. Very few of those have been involved in direct confrontations with police but those are the instances that tend to make local and national news. That confrontation/direct action element is then a key part, but just a part of the whole movement/campaign.
3. People who make claims about counterproductive tactics often point to the fact that protests are unpopular. But all protest is unpopular amongst the majority of the public.
Still, much protest is successful. Majority support is not a means to success. Instead, what is important is dedicated engagement and support by many people, but not a majority. Importantly, there are huge chunks of the population that do not support the protests themselves but have started considering this Bill and thinking that it probably is a bad idea. The goal of protestors is this not to become popular, but for their cause to gain support. And that is happening already. It was pressure on Labour following the Sisters Uncut vigil for Sarah Everard and police repression that led to Labour coming out against the Bill.
4. One of the main problems with this Bill is that it’s actually unenforceable.
No state or police force can control protests to the extent that the Bill aims to do. The current protests in Bristol, which may spread to other cities, show how impossible it is to police protest in such a way. Bear in mind that the Bill would render most protest illegal and have severe punishments for lawbreaking protest. That would push the organisation of protest underground, making it more volatile and less coherent. That is actually exactly what is happening right now under Covid restrictions. Thus, continuing these protests become a kind of direct action to show what the future will look like under this Bill.
And one last point on Bristol: mayor Marvin Rees says that Bristol is a pointless site because Bristol MPs are already voting against the Bill.
But if Bristol is a catalyst for protests around the country, showing how unenforceable this Bill is, then that will ultimately cause problem for the government.
Of course, we don’t know that that will happen. It may or it may not. But neither the Mayor of Bristol nor the shadow chancellor know that either. So what they are saying should not be taken with any more credibility than what Joe Bloggs has to say about it.
None of this is decided. There is no clear and obvious way to success or failure. All is to play for, on the streets and in the Houses of Parliament. ■
Dr Oscar Berglund
Dr Oscar Berglund is a lecturer in international public and social policy at the University of Bristol’s School for Policy Studies. You can find him on twitter @berglund_Oscar
The follow is a Report on the NO PASARAN! demonstration of September 14th from comrades with the Anarchist Political Organisation (APO) of Greece.
On Saturday, September 14th, the crowded demonstration against police occupation and drug-mafias in Exarcheia, the pogrom against refugees and immigrants and their displacement from the neighborhood, the repression of squats, self-organized spaces of struggle and social and class resistance took place. This demo marks the completion of a first round of mobilizations within the wider campaign which was called by the NO PASARAN! assembly, in which we are participating along with the K* Vox squat, the squats from immigrants and refugees Notara 26 and Spirou Trikoupi 17 – one the squats that was evicted-, the anarchist antiauthoritarian social space Antipnoia, the Self-organized social space of Galatsi Stegastro, Class Coutnerattack (group of anarchists and communists), the anarchist collective of students Arodamos and individual comrades. Many comrades and collectives from Greece and internationally responded to this campaign and organized many solidarity actions and mobilizations.
Over seven thousand people of the struggle, anarchists and antiauthoritarians responded to NO PASARAN! call which was supported by many other calls of political, social and class collectives, amongst which the base unions’ call to a common bloc, and filled the streets of the center of Athens. During the demonstration, we distributed many flyers and shouted slogans such as “No step behind, no submission, let’s crush repression on the streets”, “Everybody in the streets and the squares, Police and drug-mafias out of Exarcheia”, “We are together with immigrants, refoulement of cops and mafias”, “Solidarity is the weapon of the people, war against the war of the bosses”, “The right is on the revolted’s side, not on the side of the submitted and the snitches”, “war against the cops and the drug-mafias, we will not let the squares to be turned into butcher houses” and slogans related to the commemoration of the six years from the murder of Pavlos Fyssas by Nazis of Golden Dawn. The large number of demonstrators, the dynamics and the pulse of the mobilization, is an astounding response to the repressive operation of the state but also to the ideological propaganda of the media which attempt to isolate and criminalize those who do not submit and are still resisting against the anti-social and repressive plans of the state and the capital.
Just after the end of the demonstration in Exarcheia square, the state unleashed, as a response, a brutal attack of the riot police in the near-by streets, beating violently and suffocating by teargas many people who had either participated in the demonstration or were just coming by. During this attack, four youngsters were detained randomly among others and were later charged with unsubstantial fabricated accusations. The conspiracy which was staged against them is a blatant persecution of political motivation in an attempt to terrorize the people of the struggle and reverse the wave of class and social solidarity which was expressed earlier. If they believe that they can intimidate and repress resistance they are mistaken.
The grand mobilization of September 14th is a valuable outcome for the movement in the future, a barricade for the collective defense of the structures and the people of the struggle and the social and class resistance in general. But also it is a first step towards the direction of organizing our social and class counter-attack, for the overturn of the world of authority, for Social Revolution, for Anarchy and Libertarian Communism. ■
SOLIDARITY WILL WIN!
AGAINST THE STATE’S REPRESSIVE CAMPAIGN
NO SURRENDER – NO TRUCE!
PS1: The four people arrested in Exarcheia on 9/14 were released.
PS2: Few days after the big demonstration, the state continues its repressive attack invading and evicting two housing squats for refugees and immigrants in Athens, and removing the political kiosk from Exarcheia square, a structure of the struggle against state repression, drug-mafias and social cannibalism.
LelasKaragianni 37 squat
Originally shared by the APO on 27/9/2019 - Read here.