‘I support protest, but…’

So, obviously a bunch of shit has been happening at USYD, including the university cutting staff and students protesting etc. etc. I think I’ve probably been a bit too…vocal, and aggressive, so I think I’ll clarify what I think here. That being said, I am unapologetically in favour of my position, as I believe that activism is incredibly important on campus, especially when it comes to education activism. But perhaps I wasn’t saying it in the right way, and was getting on peoples’ nerves too much. So here are the different categories of people who say the line, in a far more…reasoned and friendly way…

  • ‘I support protest, but I don’t like the way people are going about it.’

That’s fine, and yeah, I don’t like what some people do either. People are welcome to come up with new ways to protest, of course. Personally, I’d prefer more colour and music. But that’s just me. I think these groups need a breath of fresh air, so it’d be awesome if new ideas were introduced, to be honest.

  • ‘I support protest, but you guys are way too violent.’

This is a bit different. Violence…didn’t actually happen. The only violence that happened was from police. But I’ll get on that later. Also, most of the people that say this weren’t actually at the protest, so that doesn’t really do them many favours in the factual accuracy base.

  • ‘I support protest, but stop being so mean to cops! They were just doing their job.’

People often point to the heated confrontation that happened between police and students. But is this really new? C’mon, police are trained for this stuff. They even called in the riot cops. Also, this really discounts what actually happens. The unfortunate thing about post-protest commentary is that people detach the image from the experience of being there. People act in the heat of the moment. Pushing and shoving does happen. This isn’t new, not to cops, not to protestors. It only seems new to people who aren’t very much engaged with protest. Which isn’t necessarily their fault, although sometimes it’s active ignorance. But yeah.

Also, placing cops and students on the same level is ridiculous. People keep going ‘well students were pushing too!’ There’s a huge difference between a student being rough, and a police officer with a gun, a taser, the authority to arrest, the entire government behind them, a union, and generally more strength pushing you. This goes back to primary school and bully/nerd dynamics.

  • ‘I support protest, but…wait, I don’t’

I think this one annoys me the most. It may be going too far to equivocating this to other protest movements across the world and historically, but the basis is the same. Protest does accomplish a lot. Things like occupations, rallies, blockades, strikes, sing-a-longs, etc. have changed the law and have changed the world. It doesn’t do protest any justice by discounting its effectiveness. Protest against the staff cuts has won many staff their jobs back and has saved things like the Refugee Language Program. Also, alternatives aren’t proposed. Do people really think lobbying and negotiations haven’t happened? It’s part of a holistic strategy. The only other alternative being proposed is commentating from the sidelines, often unproductively and in an uninformed manner.

So yeah, maybe there are other groups but I’m not entirely sure of them now because it’s late and I have an essay to do. My concluding remarks is that even if people don’t necessarily agree with the tactics being used, this should show some sympathy to the people who do try. The people that got arrested did nothing wrong, legally or morally. We should at least show gratitude for them doing something, even if we don’t necessarily agree with how they’re doing it (considering no one was violent).

And finally, we shouldn’t be afraid of showing opposition to this stuff! The university and the public does listen, and it’s a shame we’ve forgotten how potent protesting can be.

Advertisements

4 comments

  1. J

    Interesting how you fail to note the fact that people did commit a crime by trespassing and then attempting to break into a building. Surely this is where the police reaction stemmed from.

    Also interesting that you did not note that police came up to the protesters and told us they were happy to block off the road until peak hour in order to facilitate the protests.

    It goes to show just how much the protesters yesterday are so blinded by a dichotomous mentality of us against.

    • rafi alam

      You are speaking as if the police did us a great favour by blocking off the road, not as if it was our right to do so and that the government does that for us in order to control how protests work…also, trespassing isn’t a crime, it is a tort, and is generally not reacted to in such a way.

  2. Mitchell Garside

    Protest should not be de-legitimised by breaking the law, past protests have broken the law, been violent even. History shows that often these actions proved justified.
    Inclusion of protests in regulation and law is just an attempt to control resistence and justify police action in stamping on it, because then people leap forward and say: “Oh but you could have protested in a perfectly legal fashion”, ignoring that the “legal” fashion can be ineffectual when people in power don’t have to answer to you and don’t listen to you, or even appear in your presence.
    Breaking the law isn’t an essentially evil act.

  3. Shahar Merom

    This is late but wanted to respond to this

    “Also, placing cops and students on the same level is ridiculous. People keep going ‘well students were pushing too!’ There’s a huge difference between a student being rough, and a police officer with a gun, a taser, the authority to arrest, the entire government behind them, a union, and generally more strength pushing you. This goes back to primary school and bully/nerd dynamics.”

    The point is, that the cops didn’t use guns or tasers. They used physical force, to a small measure, to contain a protest which justified or unjustified (I think it was justified), at that point was in breach of the law. If Creationists decided to occupy by the biology building to protest teaching evolution, if pro-lifers occupied an abortion clinic, I highly doubt that you would complain about police handling the situation in a similar manner. I don’t want to complain about the cops behaviour because that is the kind of behaviour I would expect them to use in any comparable situation.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s