ALICE ECCLES think threats aren’t always wrong, but that the recent actions against authority are.
Further small scale hoaxes have happened this week in Cambridge, following the spate of synchronized scares across the country over the last month.
Nobody has yet claimed responsibility for these ‘well-oiled’ evacuations, and police investigations remain under the bureaucratic blanket. In light of this, I can do little more than speculate as to who it was that felt the need to drag me from my duvet, clad in a dressing gown and one slipper. Such a threat has, however, prompted me to consider the nature of protest.
The inimical Ian Bone, who intends to march on the Cambridge ‘chump’s bumps’ in early June, has called for Trenton Oldfield’s anarchic presence. While doddering Bone’s animal rights/Class War protest is guaranteed not to escalate into violence, there is a proliferation of examples in both British and global history where protests have taken such an aggressive turn.
But is this exhibition of violence ever justified? There is no doubt that violence serves as an efficient catalyst in winning media and institutional attention for a cause. But is its effectiveness the sole means by which violence should be judged right or wrong?
There are millions of people living in countries without the formal democratic processes that invite citizens to take meaningful participation. Such shackled civilians are surely justified, in the ‘eye for an eye’ sense, in reacting against violent regimes with violent resistance?
Even Gandhi, renowned for his pacifism, sees violence as a lesser evil than submission – ‘I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour’. Franz Fanon went further in his consideration of Algeria, condoning the natives’ violence against French colonialists. He argued that violence was not only humanizing for the Algerians, but that it also fortified communities, making their dissident actions more cohesive and coordinated.
But we are among the lucky number who live in a democratic country – we are able to conduct non-violent protests without a fear of the ramifications. And such protest is a necessity in a just society. There has to be a way in which citizens may voice their grievances, which is not muffled by the majority vote. Only then can a sustainable, constitutional society can be created, one responsive to changes both in time and morality.
In such democratic states, ‘the law must be obeyed’ and, ‘violence is always wrong’ are common mantras and are sensible in light of the endemic ease with which violence can spread like a social disease through societies. John Locke, the English philosopher, issued a vehement warning to those engaging in violent protest: ‘For wherever violence is used and injury done…it is still violence and injury’.
October last year saw what was initially planned as a peaceful ‘Occupy Rome’ protest turn into a violent demonstration, as protestors wearing masks and helmets threw rocks, bottles and other objects at police in riot gear. The demonstration against the government’s economic policy, raising crowds estimated at 200,000, descended into further chaos as protestors attacked the Defense Ministry and set a wing of the building on fire.
In our own country, gratuitous violence characterized the London riots, with a total of 3,443 crimes across London linked to the disorder. Along with 5 deaths, at least 16 were injured as result of the violent acts of protestors. But how were these acts of feral wickedness justified in any way? The act of nicking a TV could not be further removed from the death of Mark Duggan.
I have a voice and I will fight for it to be heard, but not with my fists, a broken bottle, or a knife. As bomb threat after bomb threat throws the conundrum of violent protest into the limelight, we’d do well to remember that such disruption is not always the answer. We are blessed with a democratic society and, in lacking the justification of a violent and oppressive regime, should not be tempted to inflict even the threat of bombs, whatever our message.