Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Two Tiers of Public Protest

It always seemed clear to me that Gideon Falter and his group deliberately provoked the issue with the Met earlier this month, but that should not distract from the underlying issue, which should have long ago been recognised by the relevant authorities without the need for any public stunts.

This is not so much about so-called two tier policing as two very distinct tiers of mass demonstration within democracies, one which works within or at least alongside the norms, and another which refuses to. In fact the latter typically aims to menace civil society and its everyday political mechanisms.

There is a line, occasionally dotted, between protest and insurrection. It's not precise, but we usually know it when we see it. So, on January 6 at the US Capitol, that was not merely a peaceful democratic 'protest' against the perceived electoral irregularities, was it?

Here in Guatemala during the latter part of 2023 I witnessed first hand a series of almost entirely peaceful protests against election interference. The protest movement went beyond the call of duty to ensure that there was no imminent threat of actual violence to other well-defined minorities beyond the criminals entrenched within the state, and the latter were only being urged to resign forthwith and foxtrot oscar.

From the get go these pro-Pal marches in London have been more than a protest at Israel's response to the October 7 invasion from Gaza. This is hardly surprising, as the entire movement — from inception in the last century — could largely be characterised as the wolf of Islamism, Arab colonialism and antisemitism decked out in the sheep's clothing of thwarted national aspiration and other forms of contrived victimhood.

So, it is indeed hard for 'independent' authorities to take a stance without appearing carelessly partisan, particularly when the typical response from the mob is to shout slogans until everyone just cowers.

Many protest marches are driven by issues with no obvious points of confrontation with other sectors of society, or indeed with the state. In these cases the goal of the mass walkabout is, broadly speaking, 'awareness' and a show of strength of numbers and sentiment.

Nevertheless, and the obvious example here is Oswald Mosely’s attempt to march down Cable Street (or in my lifetime the National Front demonstrations), other mobilised multitudes are deliberately seeking trouble, looking for selected victims to insult and intimidate.

From the outset the Pro-Pal demos in London have featured a variety of very red-flaggy symbols and verbalisations (e.g. “Globalise the Intifada") which surely shunt them into the insurrectionist category. What Falter and the Iranian man with his "Hamas are terrorists" banner have shown us — purposefully — is that the Met knows this, but is determined not to recognise it formally.

In North America, specifically on elite campuses and on the streets of Ottowa in Canada, the situation has grown far worse, and this is likely to be partly the result of the authorities' cowardice or complicity.


No comments: