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April 1, 2009 10:10 AM   Subscribe

Protests against today's G20 summit in the UK turn predictably bloody. The main financial hub, the City, is closed off as a retail bank is broken into and dismantled. Another street, in contrast, is taken over and turned into an encampment.
posted by mippy (192 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
And so I don't self-link in the post - photos of the camp, the riot, and some bemused suits. I was down there today as my office is a couple of stops west of the City. Superdrug and Dixons boarded up - Starbucks not. The police linked arms and held back the crowd, while another line of police held back spectators as protestors shouted 'this is not YouTube, this is real life! Go home!'
posted by mippy at 10:12 AM on April 1, 2009


They should take over the cafeteria like those NYU students. That's the way to get things done.
posted by MarshallPoe at 10:14 AM on April 1, 2009


Further details on the camp (sorry, distracted by birthday cake whilst posting)
posted by mippy at 10:14 AM on April 1, 2009


What are these protests intended to accomplish and in what way are they supposed to accomplish it? Every time there's a G8 or G20 summit, this happens. What has it ever achieved? I mean, yeah, it feels good to be the kind of person who throws bricks through Starbucks windows, but beyond that there seems to be little point to any of it besides giving all sorts of causes a bad name.
posted by nasreddin at 10:15 AM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cripes, haven't people grasped that violence doesn't make you look credible?
posted by kldickson at 10:16 AM on April 1, 2009


Judging by those clips, the ratio of protesters to journalists is approximately 50:50
posted by MuffinMan at 10:18 AM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


I was promised blood. Where is the blood?
posted by PostIronyIsNotaMyth at 10:19 AM on April 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


There were SHITLOADS of cameramen there. I spotted three Reuters cams alone at the entrance to the climate camp. Others were climbing on buildings, and OB vans everywhere. See here: http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/45623000/jpg/_45623824_rbs_window_pa_2.jpg
posted by mippy at 10:20 AM on April 1, 2009


They need to collectively decide how to proceed. I think they might need a facilitator.
posted by milarepa at 10:20 AM on April 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


That's a great bit of photojournalism there, mippy. One protester and 50 photographers.
posted by echo target at 10:23 AM on April 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


Judging by those clips, the ratio of protesters to journalists is approximately 50:50

Yeah it's strange to watch 30 photojournalists surround one or two guys breaking a window.
posted by ornate insect at 10:24 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


One man is about to start hugging the police if they refuse to smile. Some of them smile, some are clearly fuming.

Way to stay on point, fuckmop.

So by hugging "the man" one brings down "the system?" I'm not selling short on tear gas futures, that's for sure.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 10:24 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


DOWN WITH MONARCHY! WE ARE ALL SECOND CLASS CITIZENS TO THE QUEEN!

(smashes window)

I'm sorry, is this not the Down with Monarchy riot?

Could someone please direct me to the Down with Monarchy riot?

posted by Flunkie at 10:25 AM on April 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Rumour I read in the tinfoil-hat-osphere was that the RBS was oddly un-barricaded (unlike all the other banks) and staff had been sent elsewhere for the day.
posted by Abiezer at 10:27 AM on April 1, 2009


Police say 11 people have been arrested on suspicion of possessing police uniforms and for road traffic offences.
Wow, someone was thinking ahead.
posted by RussHy at 10:29 AM on April 1, 2009


Well it did say in one of the articals that RBS was shut for the day to ensure the safety of the staff.
posted by Sargas at 10:30 AM on April 1, 2009


Rumour I read in the tinfoil-hat-osphere was that the RBS was oddly un-barricaded (unlike all the other banks) and staff had been sent elsewhere for the day.

Whether true or untrue, it's certainly true that some people would like nothing more than to have images of lawbreaking and rioting spread throughout the news in order to marginalize by association the tens of thousands who protested peacefully.
posted by ornate insect at 10:31 AM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


In all fairness, nasreddin, it's almost impossible to throw a brick in Seattle and not hit a Starbucks.
posted by snofoam at 10:32 AM on April 1, 2009 [11 favorites]


They should take over the cafeteria like those NYU students. That's the way to get things done.

Well, a severe lack of facilitators means they can't reach a consensus through democratic methods. That and a proliferation of devices of force.
posted by Spatch at 10:35 AM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Cripes, haven't people grasped that violence doesn't make you look credible?

Oh, cut the false concern.

Here's the thing: anti-capitalism and anti-globalism are extreme minority positions among those whose opinions about politics and economics matter. The idea that being nonviolent would somehow be more productive than being violent is ludicrous; neither violence nor nonviolence is going to accomplish anything today, and I sincerely doubt the argument made by hand-wringing types who fear that smashing shop windows will turn potential supporters away; anyone who would be dissuaded from a position because someone who held it smashed a window would never have been terribly committed to that position anyway. Even if there is a legitimate time and place for violence of the sort that is being done by the protestors, it's certainly not accomplishing anything positive or negative here, disconnected and isolated from a larger popular movement.

And anyway, the past two centuries should stand as proof beyond rebuttal that left organizing and activism will be met with violent suppression by police and cheerleading for that suppression by the media; if you're on a march and want to smash a window, you might as well, because it's not like you're going to avoid being gassed or beaten just because you were well-behaved.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:37 AM on April 1, 2009 [41 favorites]


Well it did say in one of the articals that RBS was shut for the day to ensure the safety of the staff.

As someone who works in the City, I can tell you that most offices were closed. My office told us all last week to make other working arrangements for the G20 days.

So, oddly, the only people in the City are really protesters, police and photographers.
posted by vacapinta at 10:37 AM on April 1, 2009


Blood on the tweets.
posted by Artw at 10:38 AM on April 1, 2009


Whether true or untrue, it's certainly true that some people would like nothing more than to have images of lawbreaking and rioting spread throughout the news in order to marginalize by association the tens of thousands who protested peacefully.

Newsflash: NOBODY CARES THAT PEOPLE MARCHED. One-day protest marches are only meaningful to two groups: protestors and the people who have to find a different route to work because the street they usually drive on is blocked by marchers. Marching is self-marginalizing.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:39 AM on April 1, 2009 [7 favorites]


the only people in the City are really protesters, police and photographers.

It's a party of perambulating partisans partly poised to predictably percolate in a paroxysm of pandemonium.
posted by ornate insect at 10:41 AM on April 1, 2009 [14 favorites]


poppycock
posted by found missing at 10:42 AM on April 1, 2009


Well, I'm glad that someone is expressing thier deep dislike of the world capitalist system. All you people fuming and nashing about AIG, this is what you wanted. I think that it is important that the banking oligachy feels threatened by the people they're fleecing. I wouldn't want the G12 summit to go unthreatened and I don't think the violence is missplaced. The world economic system has proved to be a failure, and this meeting is to attempt to preserve the system with the same people on top. I doubt the big-wigs and mucky-mucks will get the message though.

I wish my people the best in disrupting the clubs. They just need to remember to clean everything up when they're done.
posted by fuq at 10:46 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Newsflash: NOBODY CARES THAT PEOPLE MARCHED.

Bingo.
posted by AdamCSnider at 10:47 AM on April 1, 2009


What are these protests intended to accomplish and in what way are they supposed to accomplish it?

Cripes, haven't people grasped that violence doesn't make you look credible?

If violence breaks out at a protest, it's usually the police or other governmental agents masquerading as protestors. Agents provocateurs should always be your first suspicion.

During the North American Leaders' Summit, the Quebec provincial police admitted that they had acted in this fashion.

Oh, look, here's another one, this time in the U.K.

And here's another one in the U.S., at the 2004 RNC.

So you might want to hold off on your condemnation of the protesters, since the violent ones are usually the ones hiding a badge.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 10:48 AM on April 1, 2009 [15 favorites]


So I've read this whole thread and I still haven't figured it out! What exactly are they protesting? Please tell me they had an agenda?
oh wait...
posted by battlebison at 10:49 AM on April 1, 2009


I think they might need a facilitator.

One that drinks corporate water?
posted by DreamerFi at 10:49 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think I agree with Pope Guilty. I don't think we would have learned about the Boston Tea March in history class. I also think that a distinction should be made between destruction of property and violence against people. Violence against people is always bad, but destroying some property to make a point is okay, perhaps even warranted, depending on the situation.
posted by snofoam at 10:49 AM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Pope Guilty: Newsflash: NOBODY CARES THAT PEOPLE MARCHED.

It's a wonder where all this "populist rage" comes from...
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 10:50 AM on April 1, 2009


Even if there is a legitimate time and place for violence of the sort that is being done by the protestors, it's certainly not accomplishing anything positive or negative here, disconnected and isolated from a larger popular movement.
Undoubtedly negative; the harm lies in the false sense of doing something it engenders in soi disant activists; it becomes (for many; not all) a substitute for the less glamorous community work which might actually present an alternative; a substitute for that "larger popular movement."
More important, while I also don't think a bit of vandalism in and of itself would put off anyone likely to be swayed by anti-capitalist politics, the puerile stuntism of it certainly does. Violence to some perceivable purpose would be less problematic in that sense.
posted by Abiezer at 10:52 AM on April 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


April Fools?
posted by AaronRaphael at 10:54 AM on April 1, 2009


It's a wonder where all this "populist rage" comes from...

Corporate media, mostly.

Undoubtedly negative; the harm lies in the false sense of doing something it engenders in soi disant activists; it becomes (for many; not all) a substitute for the less glamorous community work which might actually present an alternative; a substitute for that "larger popular movement."

Oh, absofuckinglutely, but I think that extends to nearly all if not all marches. If I had a nickel for every time I've heard "Well at least I'm doing something!" from somebody who's done nothing but march, I could buy a nice big bag of popcorn.

More important, while I also don't think a bit of vandalism in and of itself would put off anyone likely to be swayed by anti-capitalist politics, the puerile stuntism of it certainly does. Violence to some perceivable purpose would be less problematic in that sense.

The debates over "adventurism" are illuminating in this regard, but that seems to be more of an internal issue than a public relations one, at least to me.
posted by Pope Guilty at 10:57 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Pope Guilty makes a good point, albeit, FWIW, one that has nothing to do with what I wrote.

What I wrote: some people would like nothing more than to have images of lawbreaking and rioting spread throughout the news in order to marginalize by association the tens of thousands who protested peacefully.

Agents provocateurs and right-wing talking heads like Bill O'Reilly definitely do enjoy flashing an image of a riot to illustrate how the lefties are all [fill in the blank].

Of course, they are probably just preaching to the converted anyway, and it's also probably true that, as Pope Guilty says, the marches themselves accomplish little if anything.

But nothing I said is specifically contradicted by what Pope Guilty said. They are not mutually exclusive observations about the nature of protest circa 2009.
posted by ornate insect at 10:58 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


If violence breaks out at a protest, it's usually the police or other governmental agents masquerading as protestors. Agents provocateurs should always be your first suspicion.

That's way too complicated of an explanation. The real explanation is that there are just ass-hat fuck-wads who enjoy violence and mayhem and use the cover of a crowd and the excuse of a protest to stir up some shit. It happens all the goddamned time, and not just at protests. For every 1000 people who think it's a gas to mob Kenmore Square to celebrate a Red Sox playoff victory, there's one guy (almost always a guy) who will do something to ruin others' fun and justify/necessitate the riot squads.

Maybe if these protest groups actually gained any traction or were seriously threatening to change things, then I'd believe conspiracy theories. As it stands currently, dumb guys who want to "fuck shit up" are a lot more believable.
posted by explosion at 10:58 AM on April 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


Poor showing compared to the poll tax riots... like one window broken, a bit of graff and a few tents put up.

And in other news Obana gave her Maj an Ipod. Which is nice.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 10:59 AM on April 1, 2009


That's way too complicated of an explanation.

Except that it happens over and over again, and every time, the police deny it - until it turns out heh whoops we were all wearing the same cop boots and you caught us; our bad!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:01 AM on April 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Yea, most financial news stations had been talking about how everyone was encouraged to stay home or dress down this week.

Though I wouldn't doubt the police are themselves instigating violence, I still have to question where exactly the protests are intending to aim. Most sections of banks are doing what they've been doing for decades. In fact, most banks are generating higher cash flows now from lending than ever. To me it's like attacking an Oklahoma City office building to retaliate for assaults by the FBI and ATF.
posted by FuManchu at 11:01 AM on April 1, 2009


Ever wondered about the real source of football hooliganism? That's right, agent provocateurs.
posted by found missing at 11:04 AM on April 1, 2009


But nothing I said is specifically contradicted by what Pope Guilty said.

I'm not contradicting you, I'm saying that your point is irrelevant and meaningless.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:07 AM on April 1, 2009


Ever wondered about the real source of football hooliganism? That's right, agent provocateurs.

Is there a massive body of evidence that agent provocateurs provoke or even carry out football violence? Is there a long history of agent provocateurs provoking and carrying out football violence?
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:08 AM on April 1, 2009


Cripes, haven't people grasped that violence doesn't make you look credible?
posted by kldickson at 1:16 PM on April 1


Violence in sufficient quantity and focus imparts absolute credibility.
posted by Pastabagel at 11:08 AM on April 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


I think most of the comments here seem to ignore the possibility that the rules may be changing. I think footage of the LA riots, WTO protests and looting in Baghdad probably just reinforced negative stereotypes in conservative/mainstream America.

On the other hand, as this financial mess starts impacting everyday people more and more, and they start seeing how they were screwed over by the rich and powerful, I think that perceptions and attitudes may change. If you lost all your retirement savings in Enron, would you enjoy footage of an angry mob burning his house to the ground? Once mainstream Americans realize that they are actually the have-nots, I think many will wake up at least a little.

I mean, how long before an 80 year old farmer runs a bulldozer into a Citibank? Mainstream America will eat that shit up.
posted by snofoam at 11:12 AM on April 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


If what I'm saying (about right wing delight in images of rioting lefties) is true, it's by definition meaningful. It may indeed be irrelevant, but so too one could claim, by similar argument, that everything under the sun is irrelevant.

You are appealing to what you see as the stasis of protest as meaningful politics; it is a similar appeal that's often made regarding the two-party system. All arguments that say "none of this matters" are circular in such a way. I'm not saying you're wrong, but it raises the question of what in human history constitutes something worth paying attention to. In the long-run we're all dead.
posted by ornate insect at 11:14 AM on April 1, 2009


his house = ken lay's house or skilling's house, etc.
posted by snofoam at 11:15 AM on April 1, 2009


If what I'm saying (about right wing delight in images of rioting lefties) is true, it's by definition meaningful.

The statement itself signifies something. Congratulations. Wonderful. The observation, however, changes nothing and is of no particular use when discussing shoulds or oughts.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:16 AM on April 1, 2009


If you lost all your retirement savings in Enron, would you enjoy footage of an angry mob burning his house to the ground?
There was this incident in Scotland recently, and I think the general attitude was "serves the fucker right."
To be a bit po-faced, actions of this nature raise a number of tactical/ideological questions regarding its appropriateness as an approach for activists, but can't say my heart was bleeding at the news.
posted by Abiezer at 11:20 AM on April 1, 2009


Could someone please direct me to the Down with Monarchy riot?
Out of the door, line on the left, one cross each.

posted by kirkaracha at 11:21 AM on April 1, 2009


Isn't there an analogous left wing delight in footage of cops hassling bicyclists (or protesters)? I think everyone likes it when the people they are biased against are caught on film doing something bad.

There's something for everyone to love about protest violence!
posted by snofoam at 11:21 AM on April 1, 2009


The observation, however, changes nothing and is of no particular use when discussing shoulds or oughts.

What observation changes something? Not to get all Schrödinger's cat, but every observation has a potential to alter the viewpoint of one who makes or "receives" it.

So far you've taken a good piss over the ability of protests to do anything other than excite the naive energies of those participating, which is one view of politics. Naturally, though, one wonders in turn what your prescriptive for this dynamic is, since clearly a lot of people feel shafted and shut out by the system as it stands. What should their recourse be?
posted by ornate insect at 11:22 AM on April 1, 2009


What observation changes something?

Well, if you were to notice that a particular tactic makes people actually pay attention, I'd call that significant.

Naturally, though, one wonders in turn what your prescriptive for this dynamic is, since clearly a lot of people feel shafted and shut out by the system as it stands. What should their recourse be?

Researching and publicly discussing and advocating alternatives to our broken-by-design system, community-level organizing and working, and ultimately replacing the old system with something better. We are at the first stage of that, at this point.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:25 AM on April 1, 2009


I would agree that the old tactics aren't working, b/c the "activist" is seen merely as a kind of parasite on the body politic as a whole, but then again we have a president who began, according to the official narrative, as a community organizer. So I agree that old-fashioned protest marches are generally no longer effective, but I'm less sure that the problem of how to change society is any way liberated by this realization. Discerning the best route to change from outside the current system remains a hard problem.
posted by ornate insect at 11:30 AM on April 1, 2009


Am I supposed to Google Ron Paul now?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 11:31 AM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


Once mainstream Americans realize that they are actually the have-nots, I think many will wake up at least a little.

Are you fucking shitting me?
posted by Lleyam at 11:33 AM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


The smiley headshot makes it awesome.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 11:38 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Are you fucking shitting me?

To clarify, I didn't mean for the world. Obviously we're still really rich and fat. I just meant that once 90% of Americans realize they have been getting systematically fucked over by 2% of Americans, then they will be a little pissed at the 2%.
posted by snofoam at 11:38 AM on April 1, 2009


once 90% of Americans realize they have been getting systematically fucked over by 2% of Americans, then they will be a little pissed at the 2%.

What about the remaining 8%?
posted by ornate insect at 11:39 AM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


They're neither really getting fucked, nor really benefiting from the fucking over. They're what's left of the actual middle class.
posted by snofoam at 11:40 AM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


once 90% of Americans realize they have been getting systematically fucked over by 2% of Americans, then they will be a little pissed at the 2%.

What about the remaining 8%?


They stay oblivious, I suppose.
posted by AdamCSnider at 11:42 AM on April 1, 2009


Here's the thing: anti-capitalism and anti-globalism are extreme minority positions among those whose opinions about politics and economics matter.... [violence is] certainly not accomplishing anything positive or negative here, disconnected and isolated from a larger popular movement.

There hasn't been a better opportunity in 30-40 years to change how people think about modern economics; my sense is that there's an absolute groundswell of populist discontent throughout the entire first world regarding our systems/institutions, and focused protests might have been one place to give that a voice.

And anyway, the past two centuries should stand as proof beyond rebuttal that left organizing and activism will be met with violent suppression by police and cheerleading for that suppression by the media; if you're on a march and want to smash a window, you might as well, because it's not like you're going to avoid being gassed or beaten just because you were well-behaved.

You "might as well" because it'll let you indulge? This isn't Grand Theft Auto -- property destruction and violence have negative impacts on real people (not to mention economies), and very likely not the right people. But if that weren't enough, think about how televised images of the Pettus bridge march might have affected people if the protestors had been breaking/burning things. The brutal response and apparent innocence of the protestors strengthened the hand of the protestors, where it could have been pretty easily devolved into a "well, they were breaking shit, they deserved it."

I recognize there's a time for violence, and maybe there's even a time for "all hell breaks loose" civil unrest. But speaking as someone who was living/working in the affected areas of the Rodney King riots when they happened, I've got some opinions as to the ratio of desirable to undesirable effects, which I'd describe as fractional at best and pretty damn scary all around.
posted by weston at 11:55 AM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think I agree with Pope Guilty. I don't think we would have learned about the Boston Tea March in history class.

Good point.

Instead, we did learn about it, but what we learned was complete bullshit, like most of the lore surrounding famous historical direct actions.

The Boston Tea Party wasn't a spontaneous uprising of freedom loving patriots angered by excessive taxation from their colonial rulers. It was carefully orchestrated political theater (not that there weren't likely many among the protesters themselves who never realized it) organized by colonial tea smugglers (led by infamous tea-smuggler cum-Founding Father John Hancock) who had recently seen big losses due to the suspension of taxes on tea imports by the British, a move that had made it possible for legitimate tea importers to undercut their black-market prices. The Boston Tea Party was staged by smugglers protesting a British tax cut that made their illicit product uncompetitive.

So here's the question about the current protests: Who's really behind them, unnoticed, patiently working to exacerbate and harness all that anger, working the strings of all those meat-puppets to effect whatever their real aims might be? But then, really, what could their aims possibly be, other than to fuel uncertainty about the economy and the stability of Western Democracy?
posted by saulgoodman at 12:02 PM on April 1, 2009 [8 favorites]


are you guys really rehashing the 'violence vs nonviolence' debate? is this an april fools joke, too?

what's next? 'is the destruction of property really violence?'
come on; this is just so old and vanquished. zerzan barely even makes it into print anymore.
and good riddance to the old duffel bag.

doesn't anyone remember those awesome protests in argentina with all the pots and pans being clanged and banks being attacked by the middle class? that shit was fun!

when you take the excitement out of protesting you take the life out of the people.
hey! viva the peeps! (and, yes, it can be scary. and i feel bad for all the people who get hurt. and i just don't understand why they don't let us out to play more often.)
posted by artof.mulata at 12:05 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


There hasn't been a better opportunity in 30-40 years to change how people think about modern economics; my sense is that there's an absolute groundswell of populist discontent throughout the entire first world regarding our systems/institutions, and focused protests might have been one place to give that a voice.

I agree, but I think The System's immune system is still strong enough to keep the change to FDR levels.

You "might as well" because it'll let you indulge? This isn't Grand Theft Auto -- property destruction and violence have negative impacts on real people (not to mention economies), and very likely not the right people.

I was being flip.



So here's the question about the current protests: Who's really behind them, unnoticed, patiently working to exacerbate and harness all that anger, working the strings of all those meat-puppets to effect whatever their real aims might be? But then, really, what could their aims possibly be, other than to fuel uncertainty about the economy and the stability of Western Democracy?

Oh man, is it 1967 in here?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:05 PM on April 1, 2009


Ozymandius?
posted by Artw at 12:07 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


So about the threatened imposition of a single world currency, is that real or a poisson d'avril or something in between?
posted by mkb at 12:10 PM on April 1, 2009


I have a client on a side street right next to Bank of England, so I was at ground zero twice today for about one hour each time or two hours total.

Around 1PM GMT I walked from the Liverpool Street Station to Bank Street, and the scene resembled more an open street party that the aggressive, violence fueled anarchist demonstration the media here in London (Bloomberg TV is all I watch, so I can't speak to other channels) was spreading all morning.

Got some short video clips to prove it. The Quantitative Street Performers, some kind of folk singers, a quick draw artist sketching the police, a gold bug who has been outside of BOE for the past few weeks (helluva nice guy by the way) and a peaceful demonstration on Bishopsgate.

There certainly were a few skirmishes between police and protestors, but they were very small, the police used lots of resources to bring them under control rapidly, and I certainly didn't see what I'd call out and out violence between the two sides. In fact one I witnessed the police delivered a stern lecture and let the kids go. Not sure what they did, but they weren't hauled off in plastic handcuffs, New York style (I'm thinking of the various Tompkins Square riots I've been to were everyone who doesn't disperse is leaving the scene in a squadcar).

I had to head off about 1:30PM to deliver a lecture (the history of Central Banking and establishment of the US Dollar as the world's reserve currency, coincidentally enough) but came back to Liverpool Street Station at 6PM.

More outdoor street party, lots of folks creating a small tent city on Bishopsgate.

I'm nothing if not friendly and loquacious; I talk to almost everyone I run across. The Police Officers I spoke with mentioned the people were spending the night, but (and I asked) without a permit. Once Officer confided that they were peaceful and as long as they remained that way they could stay. Fair enough, guess it would create more trouble / hostility / tension to move them on. I saw lots of folks bringing in supplies; food, camping equipment and, of course, booze. 2L bottles of cider seemed especially popular.

Positive atmosphere the entire time. I was fully suited as I was visiting a client and lecturing at University. I never once experienced any hostility, wandered freely into the crowds, folks were fine. Even offered food at one point. Good crowd all around.

I was down at BOE yesterday as well and there were probably 100 journalists outside the bank and three goth kids hanging out, clearly the centre of the media attention.

I think the Media's got an agenda for this one and it seems like they aren't letting the facts get in the way of their fiction. Just my two pence, but I was there and what I saw looked a lot different than what Bloomberg TV is currently showing.
posted by Mutant at 12:11 PM on April 1, 2009 [34 favorites]


I mean, how long before an 80 year old farmer runs a bulldozer into a Citibank?

i would pay good money to see this happen.
posted by jammy at 12:13 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


So about the threatened imposition of a single world currency, is that real or a poisson d'avril or something in between?

Generally speaking, anything that would make the militia movement cream their pants is probably fake.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:15 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


More news and images from the protests in London can be found here.

FWIW, given the heavy contingent of photographers on the scene, combined with the circus atmosphere, the media will almost certainly cull from the hundreds of identical and near-identical images on that link and others in order to provide and disseminate a certain frame-of-reference.
posted by ornate insect at 12:17 PM on April 1, 2009


And in other news Obana gave her Maj an Ipod. Which is nice.

Ah don't theenk she will be varry keen, she 'as already got one.
posted by GeorgeBickham at 12:26 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


thank you, mutant.
posted by artof.mulata at 12:28 PM on April 1, 2009


its kind of depressing that in the face of all of this, witnessing the total meltdown of capitalism and sitting on the cusp of impending violent adjustments in all of our quality of life, there are still a whole set of people who are so militantly apathetic and cynical that they hate on people for mobilizing.

this is a bona fide global crisis we (yes, we) are in, and if you don't understand that, you aren't paying attention. once you understand that, if you remain sedentary and complacent in the face of this shit, i would submit that you don't deserve to call yourself a conscious human being, you don't deserve the gift of life and mind that was given to you, you are the low life equivalent of people that pick the pocket of an accident victim, callously ignore the calls for help of a murder victim. those people do, unfortunately, exist, and you can consider yourself among them.

one leads by example, not from the rear. so the challenge to armchair quarterbacks what are you doing? if the answer is nothing, then, i mean this as respectfully as possible, fuck you. i wonder how well you will be served by your hours of deep thought and revolutionary preparation staring at internets. i wonder how eloquent you will be in the heat of the moment, or how strategic you will manage to be when the spotlight is on you, when the billy club is swinging at your head, when you are asked to make a statement, a decision, or take a stand that you will be called to account for outside the virtual world of the internets.
posted by mano at 12:31 PM on April 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


At the rate he's going she's lucky it wasn't a Chuck Norris VHS tape from the local charity store.
posted by Artw at 12:31 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


What's the plan, mano?
posted by Artw at 12:32 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Not only did Obama give the Queen an iPod, he recently gave PM Brown 25 DVDs of "classic Hollywood films". Which raises a few questions. First, I thought US DVDs could only be played on US DVD players, and UK/European DVDs could only be played on UK/European DVD players? And second, why is the White House giving good manufactured in China to foreign dignitaries? What kind of subliminal message is going on here? Why not give a poster of a kitten in a tree or one of those boxes of fruit?
posted by ornate insect at 12:38 PM on April 1, 2009


Artw,you cut that out. it's just plain, old mean.

here folks, lighten up: those wise old sages at the wall street journal are here to tell us what's what with the big, dangerous, fire breathing riot in london.

(as for the obama's gifts, are those items the equivalent of slices of cake?)
posted by artof.mulata at 12:39 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Thanks to mano for providing a perfect example of why I hate the protest culture. You're accomplishing nothing, man- you don't get to talk shit.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:45 PM on April 1, 2009 [6 favorites]


one leads by example, not from the rear...
Just back from the drum circle that shook capitalism are we?
posted by Abiezer at 1:04 PM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


mano's attitude is precisely the same as TBNYU's. What counts isn't change--it's having expressed yourself. After you've done your turn on the protest catwalk, the rest of the world can go take a flying fuck at the moon.
posted by nasreddin at 1:05 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Oh man, is it 1967 in here?

Well, actually, I kind of suspect it's just some bored skater kids, so not really.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:05 PM on April 1, 2009


mano: It's an economic depression/recession/whatever you want to name it. We've had them before and we'll have more. It's not "the total meltdown of capitalism", dude...so chill out. I kinda hate to inform you that you're not witnessing the epoch-changing moment in human history you yearn for. You live in relatively uninteresting times, my friend. Sorry.
posted by rocket88 at 1:17 PM on April 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Even if there is a legitimate time and place for violence of the sort that is being done by the protestors, it's certainly not accomplishing anything positive or negative here, disconnected and isolated from a larger popular movement.

Clearly it is succeeding in the important areas of window-smashing and giant puppetry.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:19 PM on April 1, 2009


But the point is just that whenever big protests like this happen, the protesters' own lofty ideals are often (I'd almost argue, usually) being manipulated by some set of interests with less idealistic political motivations (for example, helping to take the blush off Obama's bloom, given that one of his perceived strengths is his ability to rehabilitate America's image abroad and there's so much focus in the media on Obama's participation in the talks).

Especially when those protests get media coverage.

As a counter-example, probably the most authentic and sincerely motivated protests I can recall in recent memory (and I was part of them) were to protest the initial invasion of Iraq.

The protests in our area were completely non-violent and respectable. Even in a tiny, relatively conservative town like Tallahassee, Florida, over a hundred people lined the streets downtown waving signs and chanting. Hundreds of thousands protested in NY and other urban centers around the same time.

To watch the news, if you weren't looking for it, you'd have barely noticed there were any protests at all. Even on the local news, the hundred-plus protesters that I had seen (lots of respectable, middle-class folks--soccer moms and the like--among them) were reduced to "dozens of protesters" and given only the most cursory mention.

The world moved on. Just before the invasion began, polls showed public support shooting up from just under 50% to something like 80%. I never believed it for a second. But before long it was the conventional wisdom that support for the invasion had always been high.

What do the protesters hope to accomplish? Has anybody even tried to answer that?
posted by saulgoodman at 1:20 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


2L bottles of cider seemed especially popular.

They are especially popular with me.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:21 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


That's Obamas next gift softed then.
posted by Artw at 1:23 PM on April 1, 2009


you know, although it is sad to think that protests seem to have precious little impact in the US these days, i don't think it is a forgone conclusion that they will never accomplish anything anywhere. Just ask Musharraf or the former PM of Thailand.

I don't think protests are the only solution (thank god, eh?) but simply poo-pooing people who take the time and energy to express themselves is totally lame in my book.

i think free speech and assembly are important and i'm glad they're guaranteed by the first amendment. it makes me happy that people appreciate and use these rights. it's too bad so many people take them for granted here.
posted by snofoam at 1:28 PM on April 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


legitimate tea importers

According to the link you gave, shouldn't that be "importer", singular? I don't think the East India Company was actually a co-op which might be freely joined by anyone who wasn't too busy being an evil smuggler. It might also be more objective to replace "legitimate" with "the only Royally tax-exempted"... but now aren't we starting to sound awfully similar to that "complete bullshit" grade school story?
posted by roystgnr at 1:35 PM on April 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


you know, although it is sad to think that protests seem to have precious little impact in the US these days, i don't think it is a forgone conclusion that they will never accomplish anything anywhere. Just ask Musharraf or the former PM of Thailand.

I don't think protests are the only solution (thank god, eh?) but simply poo-pooing people who take the time and energy to express themselves is totally lame in my book.

i think free speech and assembly are important and i'm glad they're guaranteed by the first amendment. it makes me happy that people appreciate and use these rights. it's too bad so many people take them for granted here.


"Totally lame"? Like, I'm harshing all over your mellow? If they're just marching, they're not doing anything. There is no A for effort in the kind of struggle they're trying to participate in. The fact that you think they should get credit for "taking time and energy" just exposes your sense of entitlement--as if we should care about your precious good intentions and not the consequences of your actions. If you think this way you are a cancer on any political movement.
posted by nasreddin at 1:37 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


I've rarely seen the possibility of violence talked up so much in advance. The authorities and some in the media were clearly relishing the prospect. The free rags on the Tube were referring to "G20 thugs" a day or two ago, before any actual thuggery had occurred. And it seems very little has. The protests themselves seemed crippled by a lack of clear focus. The war, the climate, the banks, capital itself ... sorry, what was it you wanted again?

Smashing the windows of a retail branch of the RBS was a brilliant taste of that confusion. That's state property, people, mostly owned by us taxpayers; and it's exactly the business (retail) that the banks really could focus more on. Rargh! Smash nationalised enterprise and small business loans!

For someone who's essentially a socialist, it was kind of a depressing day.
posted by WPW at 1:41 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hit a nerve did I?

Nasreddin, you have no idea how strongly I share your criticism of the introversion of the left. I did not mean to imply that people simply "need to express themselves". Thats bullshit and its an attitude that has made the left impotent for decades.

To clarify, in my reading of history, in every case, in every era, be it civil rights, womens suffrage, labor movement, pick whatever social movement you want, it is dogged by the same bellyacher commentary from outsiders lamenting the ineloquence of protest, the disruption and tension and supposed logical inconsistencies... bla bla bla. Protest is a necessary part of social movements and is not totally contained within the realm of civil discourse. The rules are different.

Most people that claim sympathy for the ideals and concern for the "tactical" or "strategic" mistakes being made by "idiot" protesters complain do it because the means of expression have made them uncomfortable. These sympathetic bellyachers are experiencing an implicit demand for their own participation, their own conscience pricks them also to step outside the realm of civil discourse and to do something to empower themselves (hopefully in a real way, nasreddin). For whatever reason, they dont activate in a sel empowring way, so they need to create the legitimate excuse for their own inaction, for remaining disempowered. This is where their panning of protesters comes into play.

Anyway, I have these discussions a lot. (Pope Guilty, I am active politically, you have no idea what I work on or how). I keep coming back to the same point in discussion after discussion with apathetic disempowered people who think they are allies. Folks need to read MLK's letter from a birmingham jail, it is the definitive word on the issue of how civil disobedience works and why. No, this shit in the street doesn't look as disciplined or intelligent as the civil rights movement, but a lot of that is because we are at the beginning and not the end of a cycle, and a lot of it is due to image being cleaned up by the lens of history, which distorts and obscures all sorts of the gritty details.

So yeah, if you want to focus on the fact that a bunch of dirty hippies like to bang drums, or that one of the protesters is naked, or that so many radical leftists are nonsensical or ineloquent, or that college students are shameless and stupid sometimes, or whatever, then ok. If you want to miss the forest for the trees, ok. But there are people out there who get the bigger picture. And I see no reason to back off the assertion that people need to realize that our lives are imminently going to change and do something to fight the current instead of floating along right over that cliff.

If it makes you uncomfortable for me to say it, or for nasty drum banging self righteous hippies to imply it, good. Because all of us need to get off our asses. If you don't like what the dirty hippies are doing, create an alternative. It doesn't have to be banging drums in the street or smashing windows at a bank. Do something to become more self sufficient, like plant a garden or meet your neighbors, or get engaged in local politics, whatever. Then you'll be able to complain, legitimately, about the dirty anarchists not planting gardens or creating structures for mutual aid or whatever.
posted by mano at 1:50 PM on April 1, 2009 [13 favorites]


I don't think protests are the only solution (thank god, eh?) but simply poo-pooing people who take the time and energy to express themselves is totally lame in my book.

Actually, snofoam, I'm kind of with you on this in spirit. I should have been clearer that my comment related specifically to the more violent protesters and how the media almost systematically focuses exclusively on them.

But the fact that it really isn't too clear what specifically the protesters in this case hope to accomplish is also troublesome to me--without very specific grievances they'd like to see addressed, their actions all too easily lend themselves to being spun in different directions.

Like for example, some in the press might report these events under a headline like: "In a Show of Outrage Over Obama's Failed Leadership, Protesters Take to the Streets at G20." Another paper might write: "Fed up with Banker Corruption, Thousands of Protesters Mob the Streets." Or it might be put any number of other ways, depending on the political biases of the media outlet. Basically, a general protest like this is a cipher into which the press can read whatever it likes.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:52 PM on April 1, 2009


Here's a good op-ed from the times on the matter of riotous outrage.
posted by mano at 1:57 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Protest is a necessary part of social movements
Only if you're begging capitalism for redress.
With the American civil rights movement, that was the point - to have the existing system live up to its promises. It's not "the means of expression" making me "uncomfortable," it's that a movement claiming to be anti-capitalist is acting entirely within the parameters of what capitalism will allow and can contain.
posted by Abiezer at 2:02 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


If they're just marching, they're not doing anything.

As opposed to what, blogging? A similar argument could be made against a whole host of human activities or non-activities, from becoming a congressman to sleeping. I mean, this very thread stems from posts about the protests, so indirectly the protesters are actually making us type on our keypads. Protests may or may not be effective at inducing political change, but if one takes the argument to an extreme real change is always illusory anyway. There has to be some middle ground here between claiming all marches are useless displays of collective self-indulgence, to claiming marches are still a truly effective means for inducing political change. I don't think anyone participating in these sorts of things has nearly the kinds of high expectations about their effects that they are assumed by some here to have.
posted by ornate insect at 2:08 PM on April 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


mano, thanks for posting that op-ed; it's really quite perfect.

Abiezer: "it's that a movement claiming to be anti-capitalist is acting entirely within the parameters of what capitalism will allow and can contain..."

are they out there spending money on the protest site? i really can't grasp what you're saying here. can you elucidate?
posted by artof.mulata at 2:13 PM on April 1, 2009


Yes, lame. And you are wrong. Marching is not doing nothing. By participating in a political protest, you are voicing your opinion publicly. This is one of several ways we have of participating in our democracy, and one of the reasons why it is included in the first amendment. It's kind of like voting, or writing your congressperson, or participating in a city council meeting, volunteering for or donating to parties or candidates, or running for office.

As I mentioned earlier, although public protest seems to be relatively ineffective in the US these days, there are plenty of precedents for it playing an important role in raising awareness and changing perceptions about issues, ultimately contributing to the progress of society (Indian independence movement, civil rights movement, etc.).

I don't understand the logic of people who just sit and complain that protest "isn't doing anything" and doesn't accomplish anything. Spreading these inaccurate ideas is certainly not part of the solution. I would not be surprised if many of these people in fact feel guilty that they are not taking a more active role in shaping their world into what they want it to be.

And I'm not a hippie.
posted by snofoam at 2:14 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Abiezer,

I know quite a few people (including myself) who are working actively on civil rights issues. Most of us would not agree with your implication that the civil rights movement is a fait accompli. Most of us would also disagree with your very simplistic description of what the movement was (is). And certainly most would have a thing or two to say about what exactly the "promises of the existing system" are (or were)... not to mention who they were made to!.

But you can feel free to elaborate if you want.
posted by mano at 2:19 PM on April 1, 2009


... and more generally, I think if you look honestly at any social "movement" you will not be able to distill a singular point. social movements are way too complicated to sum up what they were about in a sentence.
posted by mano at 2:23 PM on April 1, 2009


i really can't grasp what you're saying here. can you elucidate?
That such set-piece protests in no way challenge capitalism. There are some reformist requests raised that in themselves only ask for capitalism to behave differently; there's also more "radical" direct action that the authorities can cope with comfortably.
If the protests served any possible purpose it would I suppose be as an appeal to the wider public, but they don't appeal and indeed alienate as least as many as they attract (and, to generalise, tend to piss off ordinary working class people and appeal to students who'll spend a few years as activists then settle down in my experience).
In the UK, if your intent is to have the polity largely as it exists behave better, you'd do as well taking part in the mainstream labour and NGO movement (who were part of the more sober protests at the weekend) and perhaps looking at political representation to replace the failed Labour Party; if you want something other than capitalism, it's time to go back to the real grassroots and grind of community politics and bread-and-butter issues.
posted by Abiezer at 2:26 PM on April 1, 2009


snofoam, so right on...

it makes no sense that people still don't get the concept of reshaping the public narrative; you change the story and maybe you change the times.

protests have an active role in that process. by acknowledging publicly that you carry a dissenting opinion, by whatever method, you show that there are other ways to react to policy and events and preconceptions.

darkies stood up and actively declare that we will not be pushed around and look what happened: paler people think we're the bee's knees. ladies point out how instrumental they are to everything in this world and boy did things get a lot better for them in the big distribution. it works.

also, public protests form senses of community and allow for group communion. it disproves that we are too isolated to group together, too. and it galvanizes us to confront our demons and our perceived injustices when we do it communally.

(and it's totally, totally fun!)
posted by artof.mulata at 2:26 PM on April 1, 2009


Not only did Obama give the Queen an iPod, he recently gave PM Brown 25 DVDs of "classic Hollywood films". Which raises a few questions. First, I thought US DVDs could only be played on US DVD players, and UK/European DVDs could only be played on UK/European DVD players...

Correct. Not only was it a boorish gift, Brown can't even play the DVD's without buying a multi-region DVD player. That's a bit of Bush-level incompetence from the Big O. I was surprised.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:27 PM on April 1, 2009


Most of us would not agree with your implication that the civil rights movement is a fait accompli.
Wasn't implying it was a fait accompli - I was saying that the demand for civil rights was a demand for the provisions of the constitution to be applied to all, i.e. a demand for the system to live up to its promises, as I said. I don't belittle that, but nor do I think it's anti-capitalist.
posted by Abiezer at 2:29 PM on April 1, 2009


well gee, Abiezer, can't really argue with that can we?

mein freund, back in those heady days of the seattle wto protests my pals and i were out having a hootenanny of fun. and when it was all winding down we met with the teamsters as they were throwing a huge party for all the activists and supplying the booze, too. politicians showed up for the shindig and while we all had very different methods of expressing ourselves we were all there for the same reason. and we appreciated each other, too. alliances were made that week, you bet.

and for some reason i'm not sure why so many people think that the folks on the street aren't out participating in community action/organizing. a lot of contingents out there at any given rally are rounded up by community groups. these crowds don't just coalesce like moisture around a hot glass.
posted by artof.mulata at 2:33 PM on April 1, 2009


Wasn't implying it was a fait accompli - I was saying that the demand for civil rights was a demand for the provisions of the constitution to be applied to all, i.e. a demand for the system to live up to its promises, as I said. I don't belittle that, but nor do I think it's anti-capitalist.

Are all of the protestors necessarily "anti-capitalist"? You could argue that they are simply asking for the wider international economic and political system we have going here - of which capitalism is a part - should live up to its promises of "making everyone's life better over time". Perhaps you know more of the views of the demonstrators than I do, however.
posted by AdamCSnider at 2:37 PM on April 1, 2009


... and more generally, I think if you look honestly at any social "movement" you will not be able to distill a singular point.

mano, maybe so, but the point here just seems to be especially hard to discern.

I mean, what do the protesters want the governments of the world to do? with the civil rights movement, it was pretty clear: don't discriminate against or otherwise marginalize women, black people, and minorities. going back further to the early progressive movement, it was equally clear: protect the rights of workers to organize into unions and crack down on horrible labor abuses.

Do they want the governments to just say, okay, you got us, we give up. Let's all just abandon all this government nonsense and just hang out and play hacky-sack and smoke some weed?

In most every case where an actual positive outcome resulted from direct action (including the Boston Tea Party), the actors had specific outcomes in mind, and the action didn't stop until either concessions were made or all hell broke loose. In which case, they already had concrete plans for dealing with the event that all hell broke loose.

Besides, time have changed. We rely on the media to interpret events for us now, in ways we didn't in the past, so it's more important than ever for political movements, if they're serious about effecting change, to be able to articulate what that change is to anybody who will listen.
posted by saulgoodman at 2:41 PM on April 1, 2009


mano said: Folks need to read MLK's letter from a birmingham jail, it is the definitive word on the issue of how civil disobedience works and why.

too true - so here y'all go: Letter From Birmingham Jail, April 16, 1963 - Martin Luther King, Jr.

and if you don't want to follow that link then just read this:
I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
and Abiezer: i know MLK is not the sum total of the civil rights movement but you might be interested in what he had to say on capitalism - he might not have been fully "anti" but he certainly saw that it was part of the problem of racial/social injustice

and again, for those not in the mood for following links:
And one day we must ask the question, Why are there forty million poor people in America? And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, Who owns the oil? You begin to ask the question, Who owns the iron ore? You begin to ask the question, Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water? These are questions that must be asked.
posted by jammy at 2:43 PM on April 1, 2009 [4 favorites]


If you think they're not doing anything, what can any of us - and I mean people who are not in positions of power or financial influence - do to change the global downturn or climate change? Other than buying less and recycling, there's not a lot most of us can do. We don't have the power. Today seemed to be an expression of people saying they are tired with not having the power.

There are a few things I feel strongly about (for the record, I was there today as a spectator as I don't believe you should protest unless you feel strongly, not to go along with the crowd) and I have and will march for them and spread awareness. You may as well say that voting does nothing. It's rare that one vote changes anything, but a lot of votes together? You better believe that someone will notice.

And I am always in favour of the right to protest and the right to strike, even if I don't always agree with the aims. I'm proud to live in a country where we can wear what we want, say what we want, and make a fuss if we don;t want it.
posted by mippy at 2:45 PM on April 1, 2009


saulgoodman, i'm a little young to be really adept at talking about the civil rights movement, but i don't think it was as homogeneous as all that. i'm assuming that we include the black panthers and the nation of islam in the civil rights movement and not just the glossy martin luther king picture.

i would not contend that those folks all wanted the same thing. and i would definitely not contend that they were working harmoniously together. i would actually fall over laughing were someone to try and convince me of that.

i would probably be thinking, "ho ho! april fools, again, right?"
posted by artof.mulata at 2:48 PM on April 1, 2009


jammy - I was aware MLK moved on to a more thorough analysis.
AdamCSnider, I think you're just re-iterating my point there.
Erm, anyone else, you're all bastards and wrong!
posted by Abiezer at 2:52 PM on April 1, 2009


I was watching the 'attack' on RSB earlier. It seemed really weird (though admittedly I had Sky News on). Why wasn't the bank, an obvious target, boarded and protected. Why weren't the police there at the time? Why was there a very small group of aggressive protestors surrounded by photographers, and once in why did it end so ... peacefully? Were the police letting them have a go at RSB or do I need to put my tinfoil hat away? Just seemed strange. Quote on newsnight: "Looks like the police have surrendered the building" (just now).
posted by Elmore at 2:57 PM on April 1, 2009


Just read elsewhere that apparently someone has collapsed and died in the crowds outside the Bank of England (7.30pm UK time) :(
posted by Abiezer at 2:58 PM on April 1, 2009


Link
posted by Abiezer at 3:01 PM on April 1, 2009


Folks need to read MLK's letter from a birmingham jail, it is the definitive word on the issue of how civil disobedience works and why.

Please. MLK didn't smash shit. That's why he won. When you break nothing, show up in suits and slowly and peacefully march, people pay attention.

When you break shit, vandalize things, and use giant puppets and signs, people get mad.

I live in DC. I was good friends with the local stores. For the first big World Bank protest, the city filled up with protesters. One of these non-local assholes spray painted on the side the little market on my streets "DC for residents, bureaucrats go home!" It was a sure sign of someone who didn't live in the neighborhood and who didn't live in DC at all. If they knew the owner of the bodega, they would have never, ever done that.

These protests and their ilk are about white privilege run amok.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:07 PM on April 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


i'm assuming that we include the black panthers and the nation of islam in the civil rights movement and not just the glossy martin luther king picture.

These groups arrived at the end of the movement and signaled its demise.

Seriously getting angry and getting in people's faces does not advance agendas.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:09 PM on April 1, 2009


Sorry, navelgazing justifications like "it helps us bond in communion" are worthless. The fact is, whatever explanation you can come up with for the existence of protests, they don't work. I mean here Seattle or London-style protests, where the object is to influence foreign policy and make change on an international scale. Seattle did jack shit besides giving dudes with whiteboy dreads an excuse to posture as seasoned activists. Genoa did jack shit. London is also going to do jack shit. Can you name a single protest with similarly broad-reaching goals in the past 10 years that has actually achieved the intended result?

I'm not posing as an ally. I've suspended my belief in any form of real bottom-up social change until I see an example of it happening (and no, Obama doesn't count). You can turn up your nose and say "Well then, you're not entitled to criticize"--but in reality, out of the people you'll have to convince to get what you want, I'm one of the least difficult. You sneer at blogging, but everything you do is just as ineffectual. Until you can demonstrate a result, you don't deserve a high horse.
posted by nasreddin at 3:20 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


There's no MLK without a Malcolm X and there's no Lincoln without a John Brown.

Progressives provides a context for moderates, without it we continue to shift ever-right.
posted by birdie birdington at 3:21 PM on April 1, 2009 [5 favorites]


Ironmouth, where did you get that? the nation of islam has been around since the 1930s. and was agitating for civil rights the whole time. so who came first?

and the panthers were a direct continuation of the movement and took it to logical spaces. what do you mean it signaled the death of the movement? when did it end?

and why do you come across as so angry? and people don't get mad at giant puppets, either; everybody laughs at them for one reason or another. except the cops in genoa, of course. (this is particularly funny as paul zaloom just sent me an email...)

and we all know that it is the combination of attacks on all fronts, the civil and the uncivil, that make reform and revolution possible.
posted by artof.mulata at 3:22 PM on April 1, 2009


To clarify, obviously I believe in things like cooperatives and local protest movements. What I don't believe in is large-scale social change brought about from the bottom up. It doesn't happen.
posted by nasreddin at 3:26 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


nareddin, i shall not attempt to bond my communions to you. never fear. i am now puking on my own hippy underpinnings.

you're right; of course; a sense of community and a desire to belong have no place in a movement for justice and equality. why can't we all just get along quietly and silently and behind the closed and locked doors of our curtained dwellings?

i'd say more, but law and order's on the telly and i really love the reruns.
posted by artof.mulata at 3:26 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Wait, puppets are the same as smashing shit?
posted by Artw at 3:27 PM on April 1, 2009


and we all know that it is the combination of attacks on all fronts, the civil and the uncivil, that make reform and revolution possible.

Prove it. Where's the reform? Where's the revolution? Do you have anything more recent than a half-century ago?
posted by nasreddin at 3:28 PM on April 1, 2009


you're right; of course; a sense of community and a desire to belong have no place in a movement for justice and equality.

The only people it brings a feeling of community to are the activists themselves, who are neatly arranged in circle-jerk formation already. The people on whose behalf these protests are being conducted derive no benefit from this at all.
posted by nasreddin at 3:32 PM on April 1, 2009


Seriously getting angry and getting in people's faces does not advance agendas.

works great for most governments...
posted by jammy at 3:32 PM on April 1, 2009


make reform and revolution possible
I suppose for me it's that larger historical movements make the possibility; where popular agency comes in is what we make of such revolutionary moments when they arise.
Amidst the most serious crisis of capitalism for 30 years, movements in the West offering any alternative are at their least coherent and lowest ebb for a hundred years.
Still not recovered from Leninism and the failures of our successes in my view, and I do see protests like those at the recent G20 summits as devoid of almost any content and thoroughly recouped.
A flickr set of various crusties and coppers.
posted by Abiezer at 3:37 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


nasreddin, you mean like the freeing of india and that kind of thing? well of course not. as a matter of fact i take it all back. i can't see even a glimmer of hope in this world. from this dark disadvantage point i perceive only grim shadows and threatening figures hulking in the corners of broken buildings.

from down here i look at the diminished sky and cry out to your god, for mine died so long ago, "please, if you have ever pitied your vanquished slaves, show us some mercy."

i cry through fingers caked in the blood of all the children i have been forced to eat since our crops died, no doubt the effect of the swarms of locusts that descended upon us, punishment ofr our vile and endless sacrifices to our own mammon.

i still dream that one day we might recognize a kindred spirit in the street, but alas, we have all given up hope for love or even sanity. where once we clamored for peace and sought to embrace each other around the noncorporeal bodies of those institutions that sought to restrain us, now we shuffle shame-faced through broken streets where no slight green breaks through from a lost earth beneath.
posted by artof.mulata at 3:41 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


and the panthers were a direct continuation of the movement and took it to logical spaces.

Suffice to say, I don't think Dr. King would have felt those places to be logical. Especially with the guns and all of that.

do you mean it signaled the death of the movement? when did it end?


With Dr. King's death. If you could name me one single achievment of the movement after the 1965 Voting Rights Act, I'd like to see it. By achievement, I mean tangible, measurable change attributable to the protest movement.

King's movement worked because it was based on non-violent tactics outlined by Gandhi. The non-violence of King's marches was met with violence, highlighting the differences between the groups. When people break shit, they blur that line. And they create situations where forces of oppression can rely on their duty to protect lives and property to justify their actions against those who want change.

This stuff is just privileged white kids on a high.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:45 PM on April 1, 2009


i can't see even a glimmer of hope in this world.

shift key; that'll cheer you up
posted by found missing at 3:48 PM on April 1, 2009


"shift key; that'll cheer you up"

doesn't look like it's working for you, deary
posted by artof.mulata at 3:53 PM on April 1, 2009


Nice purple prose, artof.mulata, but you still haven't answered my question. The freeing of India was 60 years ago. I guess you could stretch it and say "South Africa," but that was mainly a result of the economic measures that were taken, as far as I can tell (and the changes were initiated from within the government anyway). The fall of communism in Eastern Europe was basically due to Gorbachev's unwillingness and inability (post-Afghanistan) to exert effective Soviet influence in the region, at which point the Warsaw Pact collapsed of its own accord. In neither case could change have happened without what amounted to cooperation from the ruling authorities--just like the Vietnam protest movement.
posted by nasreddin at 3:55 PM on April 1, 2009


Put another way, these protests are about the protestors adopting an identity more than making change happen. And maybe that's what the powers-that-be want. They are willing to take the occasional smashed window of an RBS bank rather than give up real change.

One of the signs in that photo-montage said "consumers suck!" That's telling 9/10ths of the people you are trying to convince that they suck. Has that ever worked? That is just trying to boost up your own self-identification, not convince anyone.

Look at the difference between the civil rights movement and the current protests. Everyday Americans saw young men in suits, acting nice and doing nothing other than sitting at a lunch counter and trying to buy lunch, getting beat up. Everybody goes to a restaurant--they can see that these people are being denied something simple that they are not. They can see with their own eyes the problems.

Have you ever once thought that you might be making it worse--marginalizing concerns that everyday people might have? Why do you think the forces of reaction do so well these days? Because they work their asses off trying to connect guns, god and whatever else with the policy of letting Wall Street run rampant. These protesters look nothing like the people they should be convincing and they say nothing that reaches those people. And then they all run to Gramsci, claiming that the masses have been coopted. No, the problem is that these upper-middle class fucks are fighting battles with their parents out on the streets, not trying to fix problems in the real world.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:02 PM on April 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


Ironmouth (ho! found missing, see that shift key action? guess you're getting to me. thanks!), i told you guys i give up. you and nasreddin are correct. there is nothing tangibly good that has come out of the protest movements of the last 50 years.

and just for the record, i am very proud that you recognize the sadly departed rev doctor king as the sole/soul arbiter of the rights and wrongs of the civil rights movement.

and you know else? now that you mentioned it i am going to make like malcolm and stop talking to any privileged white kids unless they further my agenda. unless they're cute and can keep it on the downlow.

nasreddin, "In neither case could change have happened without what amounted to cooperation from the ruling authorities..." you do know that somebody popped the leaders of the civil rights movement, right? and that there was further destruction of most leadership in the 70s radical movements as well?

could that have anything to do with the fact that there has been an unbroken chain of secret kings since the days of yore? yore = more than 10,000 years by the way. sorry, it's too hard to take this stuff too seriously, the discrediting of all power from a non-ruler platform. or is that a dumpster?

if you can't credit south africans for all their hard work then you can credit anybody's; the velvet revolution? never happened, right? student uprising in iran? nope, that was probably the shah's seceret henchman handing the keys on to his worthy successor.

and thanks for the love on me purplish prose; you know i wrote it just for you, girl!
posted by artof.mulata at 4:10 PM on April 1, 2009


There's no MLK without a Malcolm X and there's no Lincoln without a John Brown.

Did those two personages advance anything? What positive changes were they associated with. John Brown killed seven people in his attack on the arsenal at Harpers Ferry. Malcom X preached violence.

I think violence is wrong and should be avoided. I don't think it convinces anyone. It has worked for some whose goals I do not share.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:16 PM on April 1, 2009


I wish we'd get one of these summits in Brisbane because I'm just aching to go into a McDonald's and pull all the napkins out of one of the dispensers and just chuck them everywhere. Take that, you clowny-ass fuck!
posted by turgid dahlia at 4:17 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I've spent far too much energy today trying to figure out what this protest was supposed to achieve. What was this protest supposed to achieve?
posted by motty at 4:19 PM on April 1, 2009


student uprising in iran?

Yes, that turned out well.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:23 PM on April 1, 2009


I'll give you Iran. The Velvet Revolution, as I said, was due only to the fact that Gorbachev was unable and unwilling to use Soviet military power. If he had been, a repeat of 1968 would have ensued promptly.

The Vietnam War ended in 1975--when the government was ready to end it and had effectively destroyed the protest movement. The movement at its height accomplished very little, aside from replacing poor old LBJ with Richard Nixon. Grand victory, that.
posted by nasreddin at 4:24 PM on April 1, 2009


you know what else you can grant to the powers that be (or that have always been according to the more fun wingnut crowd)? that they stifled the belief that dissent from the ground up could be effective. good job there, old boys! toot toot! cheers! and all that stuff...

(Ironmouth, because a person holds an opinion doesn't mean that all of history can be forced to fit that opinion. whether you think violence is wrong has nothing to do with malcolm's possibilities; but i'll thank you on behalf of all those people who were inspired by his life, actions, words and story that he never accomplished anything.)
posted by artof.mulata at 4:38 PM on April 1, 2009


I love how mulata's defense of the protest movement boils down to a lot of sentimental Hallmark crap about "feeling inspired" and "a sense of communion" and "hope." Call me a cynic if you like, but that's a religion, not a political movement.
posted by nasreddin at 4:45 PM on April 1, 2009


whether you think violence is wrong has nothing to do with malcolm's possibilities

It is easy to ignore the truth and take what you want from someone without asking yourself whether or not this person is someone whose world view is worth emulating.
posted by Ironmouth at 4:46 PM on April 1, 2009


I mean, if you're comfortable being basically a PLUR-bracelet-wearing raver in an SDS costume, go right ahead. It's just that I think people tend to expect some kind of more tangible result from a political movement.
posted by nasreddin at 4:50 PM on April 1, 2009


they stifled the belief that dissent from the ground up could be effective
I think we stifled it ourselves by not being effective; except where we were effective, and then we stifled it by becoming worse than what we replaced.
Also, if you're looking to the movement in, say, South Africa and imagining you share many commonalities as a First-World opponent of capitalism, I'd say you have a very skewed perspective.
One of the reasons popular movements triumphed there was the egregious injustice that was obvious to all. Much as the global economic order's not having its best year, it's not obvious to all and sundry that it's broken beyond repair, and some Mad Max future of street rucks with RoboCop aren't a very appealing alternative.
posted by Abiezer at 4:54 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


cynic!

i know, belief in 'inalienable rights' and far flung nebulosities like 'freedom' or 'respect' is about as close to jesus' baby breath as we can get. thank the non-existence-of-god that those things are as inherent to the fabric of euclidean reality as the marianas trench and the woodpecker.

the poetic is as profoundly capable of moving a rock as a bulldozer. but then again, i don't care what the answer is to, "how many cynics does it take to screw over someone for changing the dim bulbs?"

(Ironmouth, what 'truth' are you talking about? i can't believe you live in washington, dc and you've never met anyone who was so moved by malcolm as a constellation that they found themselves inspired. the man is an icon for a lot of very good and positive reasons. he's not a one-sided cardboard cutout, you know?

leaders don't just go around signing this and that, chain themselves to trees and buildings, and make fancy talk to the monkeys; leaders also inspire. someof them inspire long after they are dead and gone. and some inspire even more because they were deaded and gone-ded by others.)
posted by artof.mulata at 4:58 PM on April 1, 2009


Cynicism We Can Believe In
posted by ornate insect at 5:00 PM on April 1, 2009


you know what else you can grant to the powers that be (or that have always been according to the more fun wingnut crowd)? that they stifled the belief that dissent from the ground up could be effective.

Yes. And how? By using a mixture of agents-provocateur and useful idiots who devalue the currency of protest by creating unfocussed counterproductive actions like today's.

Dissent from the ground up is always effective - in any context - if it has focus, genuine widespread support and a coherent strategy. But if you protest against everything, as it appears today's outing was attempting to, you in effect protest against nothing. And you risk undermining your own support and actually going backwards. That's what I fear happened today.

This is about politics. Actual successful politicians - elected or popular - build support and avoid behaviours which undermine it. I want to ask again - what did today's protest intend to achieve? Did it increase or decrease support for organisations acting towards those goals? I'm still unclear what exactly those goals even were.
posted by motty at 5:01 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'll put it this way. Popular movements are effective only when they represent organized people fighting on their own behalf, against a well-defined injustice to which there is a clear and demonstrably-workable alternative, with support from a significant section of the populace that is outside the movement itself. This definition doesn't include:

1) the WTO and G8 and G20 protesters.
2) all the various Marxist (International ANSWER) and anarchist groups who stage protests every now and then.
3) most of the immigrant rights movement.
4) almost all of the anti-globalization movement.
posted by nasreddin at 5:06 PM on April 1, 2009 [3 favorites]


you two, nasreddin and Ironmouth, have some very peculiar and particular ideas about who is in this forum.

do you think that everyone who disagrees with you is a dyed-in-their-own-ass-smelling-wool-hoody 1st world anti-captitalist? and that they are running around muttering, 'ich bin ein 3rd worlder...'

i'm talking about the nature of social movements in general. i'm very in favor of people. i am not convinced thhat my struggle is the struggle of the maori to undo the oppressions of their tormentors or that i am somehow capable of speaking for the dead martyrs of anti-capitalism.

and you cannot tell me that you wouldn't want to get in a glorified golfcart and wage war on mechanical men with the earth as the prize. gort klaatu barada nikto, buddy. you are lying. every monkey wants to smash machines. that's why we yell at each other and fling poop and when that doesn't work we stockpile rocks. and some of us do it directly and some of us do it metaphorically. but we do do it.

and i'm down for the yelling and poop flinging. so keep it coming you damn, dirty apes.

motty, are you asking me if i know what that protest was about? i don't know; i'm still in seattle... ask mutant he was there.
posted by artof.mulata at 5:09 PM on April 1, 2009 [1 favorite]


Cynicism We Can Believe In

Shorter Critchley: a word can only have one meaning! Here are a bunch of likely-apocryphal anecdotes from Diogenes Laertius so I can prove I'm smarter than you!

As far as I'm concerned, the protest movement is just as filled with hypocrisy and cant as Wall Street is. Maybe more, even, since Wall Streeters openly acknowledge their greed.
posted by nasreddin at 5:12 PM on April 1, 2009


"As far as I'm concerned, the protest movement is just as filled with hypocrisy and cant as Wall Street is. Maybe more, even, since Wall Streeters openly acknowledge their greed."

if you hold people up to too high a standard for too long they usually fall for it.
posted by artof.mulata at 5:14 PM on April 1, 2009


Did those two personages advance anything?

I realize that at two sentences my comment was excessively long-winded so you may have skimmed over the latter half, so I will repeat their advancements: They provide the context for a middle to dwell in. What I didn't say is that I agree with them or think them especially effective, only necessary. (Though I will be honest here and say that I do like John Brown quite a lot.)

More corrosive than ineffectual protesting is the (current? constant?) trend of a citizenry that is more intent on being analysts than citizens, or being part of a community or righteously angry. I'm so glad I'm always surrounded by experts, but I'm left to wonder who will be the citizens.
posted by birdie birdington at 5:25 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


and you cannot tell me that you wouldn't want to get in a glorified golfcart and wage war on mechanical men with the earth as the prize. gort klaatu barada nikto, buddy. you are lying. every monkey wants to smash machines. that's why we yell at each other and fling poop and when that doesn't work we stockpile rocks. and some of us do it directly and some of us do it metaphorically. but we do do it.

At least you are being honest that this is about self and not helping others.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:28 PM on April 1, 2009


the protest movement is just as filled with hypocrisy and cant as Wall Street is

You may be seeking a purity among human beings that does not exist, and you may be setting up a false dichotomy: through bubbles brought about by reckless speculation, unregulated Wall Street traders can cause real economic harm to millions of people, but it's difficult to conceive how "the protest movement" could equal such damage.
posted by ornate insect at 5:29 PM on April 1, 2009


3) most of the immigrant rights movement.

The May 1, 2006 immigration rights strike/protest (and those of subsequent years) meets all of your criteria and is in stark contrast to these vague Seattle-style anti-globalization protests, so I'm not sure why it's on your list.
posted by enn at 5:33 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


"At least you are being honest that this is about self and not helping others."

i was actually talking about this conversation in a meta-fable way.
posted by artof.mulata at 5:36 PM on April 1, 2009


The May 1, 2006 immigration rights strike/protest (and those of subsequent years) meets all of your criteria and is in stark contrast to these vague Seattle-style anti-globalization protests, so I'm not sure why it's on your list.

OK, fair enough. I don't know enough about the movement in California and the Southwest. Most of the immigrant-rights activists I've been exposed to here are the typical well-meaning middle-class white activist types who don't accomplish much (though they do run legal aid clinics).
posted by nasreddin at 5:39 PM on April 1, 2009


1.04pm: The woman in front of me shouting into her mobile - "No, I'm over here, underneath the Love Your Mum banner! I can see you! I'm waving!".
It is just like being at bloody Glastonbury.

posted by Flashman at 5:42 PM on April 1, 2009


i'm bowing out everyone; it's been nice discussing this with all of you. keep up the good chuck and don't forget to fight the power. right right. toodles!
posted by artof.mulata at 5:47 PM on April 1, 2009


They provide the context for a middle to dwell in. What I didn't say is that I agree with them or think them especially effective, only necessary. (Though I will be honest here and say that I do like John Brown quite a lot.)

John Brown provided slavers with a brush to tar all abolitionists with, just as these protesters provide a convenient target to associate those interested in real reform with. The illusion that the crazies are somehow advancing the agenda so that people will listen to those who want change is at the core of the problem. The enemies of progressives have used the extreme disconnect between Joe Average and the window-smashing "consumers suck" protesters to stifle calls for reform.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:50 PM on April 1, 2009


And in other news Obana gave her Maj an Ipod. Which is nice.

Could be worse. He could've been visiting China. Actually that'd be hilarious, he should do that.
posted by amuseDetachment at 5:59 PM on April 1, 2009


King's movement worked because it was based on non-violent tactics outlined by Gandhi.

King's movement worked because its participants were disciplined and committed, their leader was a gifted speaker and organizer, and they were part of a larger struggle, including the growing threat of a militant black liberation - to which they provided a palatable alternative.

Gandhi was operating in a context of full-spectrum anti-colonial resistance, which included guerrillas; the Irish resistance movement was also growing, and in time there was the small matter of WWII, which I believe softened Britain up a wee bit. Gandhi may have, overall, been a great man, and his movement was certainly a crucial one, but the idea that he and his followers alone were a sufficient threat to the world's last great colonial power strikes me as a charming fairy tale.

I'm not saying violence is the answer - in many cases it has seemed to be a sign of failure - but people need to stop this particular debate if they're just going to parrot received wisdom rather than think about their own arguments.
posted by achromata cantata automata at 6:18 PM on April 1, 2009 [2 favorites]


Wait, puppets are the same as smashing shit?

In Philadelphia, the police will show up and take your puppets from you, without the usual due process that accompanies when authorities confiscate private property.

In some locales, it is illegal to show up in any kind of disguise, or carry implements that can serve as weapons. Puppets have been rewritten into law to qualify as such devices.

So, on some level, people who have or use puppets are treated the same by the authorities as people who smash shit. Amazing, huh.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 6:24 PM on April 1, 2009


The problem with protests is that all the people who should be there protesting are put off by all the people who are there protesting.

Best way to silence a real protest? Have a protest.

First, make some signs. Misspelled? Illegible? Unintelligible? Awesome. Random Leftist cause totally unrelated to what's being protested? Perfect. If you can come up with a not-quite catchy slogan that makes it seem like you think you're much more clever than you actually are, that's ten bonus points. If you've bathed this week, be sure to mask your cleanliness with pot reek. To help with that, get really high. Also, bring something to cover your face with, since nothing says I believe in this cause with such fervent passion that I am ashamed to be here! (not to mention Gas me please!) quite like a black paisley bandanna. If you are white, you must have dreadlocks. It's a rule. If you're not white, thanks but no thanks. You'd only taint the protest with legitimacy. Also, MILLENNIALS ONLY. Undergrad freshmen good, High School freshmen better--careful, though, because too young can mean too cute, which may draw in cheek-pinching grown-ups who actually know about issues. Strive for descriptions such as "naive," "poorly informed," "misguided," and "obnoxious."
posted by Sys Rq at 7:43 PM on April 1, 2009


(Also, holding your Highly Protestable Event on a weekday will go a long way in restricting protest participation to truants and the unemployed.)
posted by Sys Rq at 7:47 PM on April 1, 2009


Put another way, these protests are about the protestors adopting an identity more than making change happen. And maybe that's what the powers-that-be want. They are willing to take the occasional smashed window of an RBS bank rather than give up real change.

Exactly. Because these kinds of "direct actions" aren't designed to achieve any particular tactical goal that helps to further the broader strategic aims of the protesters (because they don't have any strategic aims; they just want an excuse to have a big street festival and to blow off some steam).

Direct action only works when it effects a specific targeted goal. For example, if you don't like weapons being shipped to Mujaheddin fighters in Afghanistan, you find out what freighter is carrying the shipment and you block it from leaving port for as long as it takes to either prevent the shipment or until you're forcibly removed. If later on, those shipments are slated to go forward again, you block those efforts, too, if possible.

The basic point of direct action is to directly bring about (through nonviolent means) the specific changes you want. In that sense, you can't really even call the G20 protests direct action, because they aren't directly acting on anything. Now, the french factory workers who took the Caterpillar executives who fired them hostage, they were practicing direct action--only in that case, they didn't have a realistic plan.

The Montgomery Bus Boycott, for example, was a carefully planned direct action campaign that didn't end until it forced a Supreme Court decision that declared segregation in the public bus system unconstitutional.

In that case, direct action was effective in achieving real, tangible political change, not just in creating a vague sense of self-satisfaction among anonymous crowds of life-style protesters who then went back home and went to bed feeling they'd achieved something despite all evidence to the contrary, flipped on the tv to watch the coverage of the protests the next morning while eating their breakfast of cold cereal, posted some homemade videos of the event to YouTube, and then more or less got on with their lives until the next G20.

To achieve change through direct action, you first have to define what change you want to effect, then you have to identify the real-world conditions necessary to realize that change. Then you have to engage in direct actions that piece-by-piece bring those conditions about. You can't just rush into the streets, filled with a sense of outrage, but with no coherent plan, and expect to bring about political change.

That's all I'm saying. I'm all for direct action. I just want it to be used in ways that actually stand a chance of accomplishing something.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:10 PM on April 1, 2009 [10 favorites]


they just want an excuse to have a big street festival and to blow off some steam).

sorry. this was not a fair statement. i'm sure a lot of g20 protesters sincerely do want to contribute positively to their personal political causes. that throwaway line was pointlessly snide.

posted by saulgoodman at 8:46 PM on April 1, 2009


I think violence is wrong and should be avoided. I don't think it convinces anyone. It has worked for some whose goals I do not share.

I'm sure if people kept talking nice the southern US states would have gotten around to freeing their slaves. Some time. Eventually. The Bourbon monarchs were just waiting for an opportunity to relinquish their throne; that whole French revolution was unneeded. Charles the First? Sadly misunderstood. He just needed a cuddle. James? Likewise.

and in time there was the small matter of WWII, which I believe softened Britain up a wee bit.

And, of course, the fact the US, who held a large truncheon of debt over the UK, was determined that the British should divest themselves of their Empire after the war.

the world's last great colonial power

Heh.
posted by rodgerd at 2:11 AM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was utterly shocked an appalled at this
" I was fully suited as I was visiting a client and lecturing at University"

Our Mutant! IN A SUIT!!!
posted by Wilder at 3:27 AM on April 2, 2009


If violence breaks out at a protest, it's usually the police or other governmental agents masquerading as protestors.

....Not necessarily.

I was at the big first-day protest march when the RNC came to New York in 2004, which by all reports was peaceful - oh, except for the moment when about 30 people, who were marching along and carrying a big green dragon puppet, suddenly crouched down and set it on fire about 20 feet behind me. According to this article, it was indeed "a militant contingent, apparently organized by word of mouth, that took part in the main permitted march; this might be the first case on record of a black bloc going undercover by mixing with civilian protesters and leaving their faces uncovered until the moment before the action."

Not that I don't put it past the idea that agent provocateurs exist. However, yeah, sometimes it is the protestors who also do get violent as well.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:36 AM on April 2, 2009


Oh, and when someone sets fire to something 20 feet behind me and sends flames shooting 20 feet in the air, and causes a stampede of panicking people to come running at me from one direction and a flying wedge of cops in riot gear to come running at me from the other direction, I don't really so much care WHOSE side they're on, I'm still going to think that on a personal level, they're assholes.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:40 AM on April 2, 2009


Kettling
posted by Artw at 9:15 AM on April 2, 2009


I'll put it this way. Popular movements are effective only when they represent organized people fighting on their own behalf, against a well-defined injustice to which there is a clear and demonstrably-workable alternative, with support from a significant section of the populace that is outside the movement itself. This definition doesn't include:

1) the WTO and G8 and G20 protesters.
2) all the various Marxist (International ANSWER) and anarchist groups who stage protests every now and then.
3) most of the immigrant rights movement.
4) almost all of the anti-globalization movement.


nasreddin, this definition doesn't include any popular movement except single-issue reformist movements. Of people fighting only for their own rights. Put bluntly, protesting against Guantanamo can only be effective if carried out by the people held there, then?

You say we need demonstrably-workable alternatives. For global issues those might be even more difficult to prove than it would have been for, say, the first fights against monarchy...

And being effective does not equal having easily measurable effects (short of a revolution, for that matter). What does a solidarity demonstration in front of a detention center change?
posted by dnial at 12:02 PM on April 2, 2009


nasreddin, this definition doesn't include any popular movement except single-issue reformist movements. Of people fighting only for their own rights. Put bluntly, protesting against Guantanamo can only be effective if carried out by the people held there, then?

You say we need demonstrably-workable alternatives. For global issues those might be even more difficult to prove than it would have been for, say, the first fights against monarchy...

And being effective does not equal having easily measurable effects (short of a revolution, for that matter). What does a solidarity demonstration in front of a detention center change?


Well, duh. That's what I'm saying. Did all the Guantanamo demonstrations change anything until the government changed? Have any of the global-issues demonstrations changed anything? What good does a solidarity demonstration actually do?
posted by nasreddin at 12:15 PM on April 2, 2009


Why would anybody close Guantanamo if nobody had ever said a word against it!?

Sorry my last sentence was unclear, I was thinking about detention centers for asylum seekers for example. If there is almost no chance of actually setting anyone free, does this mean any demonstration is useless? Can you imagine how it must feel if you are unjustly imprisoned and alone and suddenly you hear a demonstration going on outside? And that's just one of the effects. Hard to measure, though.

It sounds to me like you are basically saying revolutionary changes are not possible, at all.
posted by dnial at 12:40 PM on April 2, 2009


So the fact that anti-war protests didn't bring about an end to the Iraq War = protest is a waste of time? Well, congratulations GW Bush! That sure was easy.
posted by stinkycheese at 1:08 PM on April 2, 2009


Why would anybody close Guantanamo if nobody had ever said a word against it!?

Not demonstrating is not the same as not saying anything against it, obviously.

Sorry my last sentence was unclear, I was thinking about detention centers for asylum seekers for example. If there is almost no chance of actually setting anyone free, does this mean any demonstration is useless? Can you imagine how it must feel if you are unjustly imprisoned and alone and suddenly you hear a demonstration going on outside?
And that's just one of the effects. Hard to measure, though.


I'm not sure I would be all that comforted by a crowd of impotent do-gooders milling around outside. I can't speak for detainees, though, but maybe you can.

It sounds to me like you are basically saying revolutionary changes are not possible, at all.

I don't think they are possible, until proven otherwise. The historical moment for revolution in the West has passed. If you don't agree, I'd suggest you weigh the evidence on both sides a little more carefully.

So the fact that anti-war protests didn't bring about an end to the Iraq War = protest is a waste of time?

Yeah, pretty much.
posted by nasreddin at 1:48 PM on April 2, 2009


Apart from elections, are protests the next most popular form of political participation? It'd be interesting to find out.

-

Yesterday after work I headed in the general direction of the protest, hoping to inspect some of the damage wrought on the RBS bank, to see the spectacle and yes, to identify with a vague sense of dissent against irresponsible, speculative finance and crony capitalism. I ended up in Bishopsgate in the middle of Climate camp without knowing it, although the tents should have tipped me off (I'm not a big environmentalist and I'm even less of a camper), and was wandering around obliviously when the police decided to close off the street and contain the camp for no reason, letting no one out. There was a bit of a ruckus between police and protesters as the police line moved in but nothing particularly confrontational (at least not at my end) after the new lines settled down, a bunch of legal observers in bright orange construction jackets started handing out "bust cards" detailing our rights if detained by police. I scanned the first side of the concertina and handed it on. The general sense of carnival that I stepped into at 7 carried on until the police finally let us out at about 11:30, though I'd fallen behind the mood about two hours earlier.

Mostly I circled around the camp, thinking it a good thing that the city and the street were being subjected to novel inhabitation, people packed on top of bus stops leaving the normally contested bench strangely unoccupied, people peeing into the corners between buildings, lobby crevices and gaps between police vans, creating valleys of piss surrounding little islands of dry squatting space, later some sawdust was dispensed to soak up the mess whilst the squatters had left for more reliable patches of dryness. The perimeters were densest with bodies, and at least one bicycle sound system cycled between the north and south end throughout the night.

Some people said that the police containment wasn't intended to defuse violence so much as incite it by antagonising and goading protesters. Whatever their original reasons, it turned out that the northern end of police had themselves been flanked and contained by protesters coming in behind them, in fact it looked like the sporadic violence and arrests were happening outside the camp rather than in it.

I don't know if everyone who wanted to leave Climate camp was as clueless as me about Climate camp (I think they wanted to camp their way through the night to the leading stories the next day and edge out the G20 coverage with their anti-climate change message). As people squashed through the gap in the police line late at night one of the organisers very helpfully shouted over megaphone our rights in case of bust, channelled the collective ire against the pointless police lockdown and then thanked us for coming and taking part peacefully. It was incredibly well organised, even if part with the collective decision making process was totally daffy.

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Globalisation and climate change aren't issues that have an obvious answer, but if this ambiguity discounts popular movements as channels for effective social change it's not clear what should replace it, does this mean organisation is not the answer? The issues are popular even if the movements aren't, and they demand popular participation and publicly structured, dissenting dialogue when increasingly it looks like all we have to choose from are different mechanisms of pressure of more or less formality, more or less convenience. Which is to go back to birdie birdingtons point, what makes a good citizen today?
posted by doobiedoo at 3:56 PM on April 2, 2009


Globalisation and climate change aren't issues that have an obvious answer, but if this ambiguity discounts popular movements as channels for effective social change it's not clear what should replace it, does this mean organisation is not the answer?

organize a campaign that shuts down just one dirty coal plant through nonviolent direct action, and you're making a difference, doobiedoo. that's what it means to make a difference: actually bringing concrete changes about. making even large-scale change happen isn't impossible (consider school integration in the American south, for example), but it's always messy and painful. it takes a willingness to put everything on the line. and who has the stomach for that anymore?
posted by saulgoodman at 9:20 PM on April 2, 2009 [1 favorite]


these protests are about the protestors adopting an identity more than making change happen

Word.

One worrying part of the anti Iraq war protesting was the slogan that people generally adopted and could be found on badges and signs:

'Not in my name.'

Protesting as a display of personal inclination, of identity rather than as a means towards a goal.
posted by Cantdosleepy at 7:21 AM on April 3, 2009 [4 favorites]


So the fact that anti-war protests didn't bring about an end to the Iraq War = protest is a waste of time?

I'm more inclined to attribute the disillusionment to those protests leading up to the 2000 elections. (i.e. "They're the same guy!")

The people who bought into those protests and voted for either Nader or nobody had, one would hope, immediate buyer's remorse. No, wait, worse. You know how when you drink too much of one thing--let's say rum--that you barf and barf and barf and the barf tastes like rum, and then you can't drink rum for a really long time without gagging? That.

So, basically, I think people are still tasting their ralph.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:47 PM on April 3, 2009 [1 favorite]


Some excellent observations on the protest from two british bloggers

...But it's significant, that for me the only potentially political strategy - the factory occupation in Enfield - is happening far away from the spectacle of politics that went on in the City...

Time to withdraw from the feelgood simulation of politics. Time to give up the gratification of displaying wounds inflicted by the police as signs of grace, evidence that we are on the side of the Good. Time to relinquish the easy jouissance of impotent acting-out. Time to face the fact that organising marches isn't the same as political organisation.

posted by doobiedoo at 7:02 AM on April 4, 2009


Even better, a little comments discussion going on here on the spectacle.
posted by doobiedoo at 7:26 AM on April 4, 2009


I think the comments that stick with me (also the last of this post (sorry if this trickling of links is infuriating anyone)) is the idea that the protest, however compromised by our expectations of "doing something"/pat presentations of change, is a popular, concrete vehicle with the potential for developing ambiguous desires - what do we really want (the difference between making demands of the existing authorities that preserve an existing political framework and making claims to common rights that bypass authorities and speak to a new framework)? did that change anything (surely if you came back from the protest motivated to overcome your frustrations with its limitations then protest would have been useful)? - and also for developing your commitments - is it worth standing up to a police line advancing in riot gear?

Whatever its current shortcomings, the catchment of protest is much broader than analytical volunteerism and can be a spur to better political organisation if it's seen as part of a process who's outcome needs to be analysed rather than a self contained stunt, so wouldn't it be in everyone's interest to acknowledge and attract the energy of protest rather than dismiss it as the weekend warrior's act of self indulgence?
posted by doobiedoo at 7:58 AM on April 4, 2009


The problem that I see is that all the protesty people I know see protesting as an end in and of itself. They don't protest to enhance solidarity or sharpen otherwise blurry ideas about what they want; they know what they want, but the only idea they have about how to get it is to march, march, march, and yell that anybody who doesn't march is part of the problem and should join the solution. I get the impression from talking to friends around the country that the same culture exists elsewhere. The problem is that right now, the radical political culture is the protest culture.

I also think that your idea is pie in the sky as hell, relies on a kind of introspection that is uncommon, and is something that any random protest culture type could say "Oh, yeah, that's what we're doing!" and continue on his merry way.
posted by Pope Guilty at 11:39 AM on April 4, 2009 [2 favorites]


Some serious destruction has accompanied the NATO summit in Strasbourg.
posted by WPW at 11:44 AM on April 4, 2009


I also think that your idea is pie in the sky as hell, relies on a kind of introspection that is uncommon, and is something that any random protest culture type could say "Oh, yeah, that's what we're doing!" and continue on his merry way.

You're right, but I'm not trying to justify protest as it is currently, I'm trying to figure out a way that everyone could benefit from it beyond feeling good about themselves because they "made a difference" or because someone else called them on their acting out. I find the dismissal of protest, however politically shortsighted it might be, to be as unhelpful as the protesters' call of "you're either with us or against us" - I can't imagine that political organisation is a particularly well staffed enterprise so why is the attitude in this forum towards protest - surely either a base of volunteers or support - so absolutely disdainful? I'm sure it's not an original idea and political organisers have already tried coordinating with protest organisers, but I haven't heard anything about it.
posted by doobiedoo at 3:28 AM on April 6, 2009


I think the only way to make marching effective would involve so many people acting over so long a period it would begin to qualify as "occupation".
posted by Pope Guilty at 8:48 AM on April 6, 2009


Actually, there was that march a few years ago . . . immigrants wearing white? It was amazingly well-executed: focused, uniform (literally), dignified, highly visible, clearly defined purpose, concise message, etc. I think its success is attributable to the March on Washington formula.

The "protest" culture, otoh, seems to be all clusterfucks and battle lines and hormonal frustration.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:41 AM on April 6, 2009


Police assaulted bystander who died during G20 protests
posted by regicide is good for you at 11:11 AM on April 6, 2009


Video reveals G20 police assault on man who died

Whoops, looks like they murdered that guy.
posted by Artw at 10:24 AM on April 7, 2009


De Menezes taught the Met nothing
posted by Artw at 11:19 AM on April 7, 2009


Police handling of the story is reminiscent of recent incidents in that they get their story out early while attention is on the incident, most of the media report it unchallenged and when the truth comes out at a later date it's largely ignored, with the police narrative already established for the few who care. It's only incredibly high profile fuck-ups like the De Menezes case where they get caught out; remember reading several things discussing this police approach to PR back then, and promises it would change.
posted by Abiezer at 11:39 AM on April 7, 2009 [1 favorite]


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