Wednesday 17 December 2003

On Civil Disobedience

Dave Pollard of How to Save the World writes about the FTAA protests in Miami in response to an article in Salon Magazine. Dave sort of asks the question where are the "antidemocratic" forces going to rear their ugly head next time?

I suppose the Republican Convention next year in New York will be a real corker. All America really needs to see is some panic in the streets ala Chicago to get Bush his second term.

I read the Salon article with interest. I have no doubt that all the things written were true from the vantage point of the author. It is an analysis of what happened in Miami and how it happened. It does not mean the article is the whole truth, it means that this is how the author has chosen to relate the tale. We agree with it because of our own political beliefs and we give her authority.

We had protests here in Portland before this war started, one with upwards of 50,000 people showing up. That is five times the size of the FTAA shindig in Miami. Our protests were remarkably free of violence on either side. The worst that happened IIRC was some people tied up traffic by leaving the march route, they were arrested without requiring any trips to the hospital. Not all of America is like Miami. Police in Portland may have used tear gas to disperse some of the hard core who were still protesting after midnight (the march/rally ended at 3 PM or so). It was a game of cat and mouse waged on empty streets. With protestors (about 50) scattering when a police car would pull up and forming up a few blocks away (cell phones are cool for organizing). These were young men whooping it up playing with the police, I doubt any of them had a real concern about the war that was about to happen in Iraq at that point they were in the "zone".

Seattle was a disaster, if that is your model of what should be done I don't want it. Protestors there were allowed to run rampant and "voice" their displeasure with what ever symbol they were offended by, in the chaos that resulted throw in some looting. That is what happens when you don't have enough police presence. The police did not "start" anything in Seattle and didn't react to save property from being destroyed. Eventually they tried to take control and establish order and people got hurt (there was already some crowd on crowd violence before the police acted).

So how about we all gather in "your" neighborhood and vent our collective spleens on your house/property or the local Starbucks or Dry Cleaners the ones your neighbors/ relatives manage/own?

Just where and when is it acceptable to throw bricks through windows? Burn down establishments for having a tie to some ecological cause celeb?

I happen to agree the world is better off without Starbucks or McDonalds or WalMart but wouldn't the sensible thing to do be to quit spending our money in such establishments? Isn't that democracy and freedom? That is responsible protest, you don't like something then don't back it with your money. You have a political agenda then you pursue it with the ballot.

If you wish to gather together to show solidarity and support for an idea, you can, so long as you obey the existing laws. What happened in Miami might be bad but what happened in Seattle I wouldn't wish on anyone's town. I am quite pleased that nothing like Seattle or Miami happened in Portland and you know what, there were hundreds of protests like Portland before the war all over this country. By and large there were no big dust ups between police and protestors. Why is that? The antiwar protests were remarkably free of violence.

The protests regarding Economics are invariably bloody. Do you think there is an agenda being pursued here? Thing is there is a group of provocateurs who travel to these things and promote the confrontations. If they can get a gestapo reaction all the better because it shows the state to be a big bad thing. It isn't the professional provocateurs who get busted but usually locals who don't know what is happening or coming. People who are junked up on adrenaline and politics are easily turned into a mob. Dave be honest it is damned frightening to be in one of these things (or exhilarating depends on what side of the line you are standing on).

I abhor police violence and mobism both. But the violence doesn't happen in a vacuum because of "nothing". The police may have been ramped up and hyped but so is the crowd. It doesn't take much to get what happened in Miami or Seattle.

You can speak eloquently for free speech and democracy but it comes with responsibility. Nothing is truly free. If we want the right of freedom of assembly then we have a responsibility to remain lawful and to cooperate with authorities when someone breaks the law. We must police ourselves. If you have the courage to protest then you should have the courage to censor those that would hurt the cause. People who incite violence have no place in protest. I am not saying that violence has no place it does, but that is revolution not protest.

Posted by Philip at Wednesday 17 December 2003 | TrackBack