Friday, 10 December 2010

Is violent protest ever acceptable?

Watching the news last night, there were no shortage of politicians, police and commentators all keen to condemn the violence that broke out, while equally keen to stress that the people have a right to protest. It's an easy line to trot out and it's also so predictable I wonder why they bother posing the question. However, I think if you consider it properly then surely the correct answer must be 'at some point, violent protests are not just acceptable but required'. What is war, if not the ultimate violent protest?

I am certainly not convinced that the current issue of Tuition Fees warrants a violent reaction from the public but I can certainly understand why some may feel otherwise. After all, a Coalition government that was not wanted has proposed, and now passed, incredibly unpopular legislation by tiny majority. The conditions are ripe for unrest and many will feel that as non violent mass protest has not worked, they have little choice left. The reality, of course, is that they do have and always have had another choice.

If the protesters genuinely feel that they have enough support they should either join a party that offers them the politics they need or form a new political grouping of their own. There are Local Government elections next year. They can put their case to the people and go from there. That's how it works within our democratic state. There is recourse through elections. Now, I understand that doesn't offer an immediate solution and even should they get the political office needed, it is harder to overturn legislation already in place, but i'm afraid that's they way it works.

Had the protesters organised themselves in such numbers before the general election the political landscape would most likely be completely different today. I'm afraid this is the price of apathy - those that show up get to make the decisions. So whilst there may be occasions when violent protest is acceptable, this certainly isn't one and whilst the ability to peacefully overthrow the government remains, it is unlikey a situation will arise where genuienly, there are no other options left.

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