Monday 20 June 2011

The right way to protest?

Living and working in a busy city centre, I am constantly faced with people bearing clipboards, banners, brightly coloured tabards and t-shirts, all brandishing flyers and poised ready to jump in front of me at the most inopportune moment to sell, make demands, preach or otherwise disrupt my pavement journey. The protest is no exception.

I am all for having opinions but I am going to keep mine out of this blog, for as far as the topic of the protest goes anyway, but I feel the need to discuss the method used by protestors. I recently witnessed a protest that was surprisingly, for a company that usually keeps its online/media coverage very poignant, potentially the most unprofessional protest I have ever encountered (and being in the city centre there have been many).

First of all I witnessed protestors swearing and shouting abuse at people in the street for no other reason than walking past the building the company were protesting outside. As a hooded teenager screamed “bitches!” at two women, I couldn’t resist pointing out to said protestors that abusing the public was probably not the best way to drum up support. Sadly verbal abuse was not enough to satiate them. The protestors proceeded – with complete disregard for the other occupiers and staff that are wholly unconnected with the target company – to provoke the building managers resulting in a confrontation that necessitated police intervention and led to exaggerated accusations of physical threats and violence by both parties.

Without making any commentary on the cause, nor the rights and wrongs of the target company or the protestors, this behaviour is not what I would expect from a company that really believes in its moral standpoint and wants public support. Exhibiting arrogant and intimidating displays of power and directing abuse at the general public is surely not the right way to go about a protest and certainly in my eyes this performance has lessened the impact that this company will ever have in rallying my support. Have the days of memorable and effective protests, of chaining oneself to a fence and making a solid statement been left behind?

Elloise Hopkins

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