I’ve been asking myself that question following today’s student protest in London. Well I say student, but there were also electricians and, even more bizzarrely, cabbies fighting their corner. However diverse the protesters were, they were unified by their apparent calm and obedience.
Apparently at least. I hopped around London this afternoon from Trafalgar Square to St Paul’s to Moorgate and saw barely a protester in sight. There was a large group of anti-capitalist protesters in Finsbury Square, but I have a suspicion they were there anyway.
I spent some time at a police cordon near a kettle, but onlookers were kept so far away that it couldn’t be seen. Apparently protesters were being allowed to leave but it must have been from a different side because the sharp-suited city workers who kept appearing were definitely passers-by.
The dominant image of the afternoon was lots and lots of police, barriers, cones and vans. Reports estimate that 4,000 officers policed the protest.
Maybe that was why there was no repeat of the ‘direct action’, criminal damage or whatever you want to call it that happened at Millbank a year ago and subsequent protests. Protesters may also, understandably been subdued by threats of rubber bullets and ‘warning letters‘ distributed by the Met.
And the result? A very subdued media response.
While I don’t think that ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ always holds true, the articles I have seen today have mostly been relegated down news pages and mundanely remarking about the ‘peaceful‘ nature of the protest and its policing.
What I haven’t yet seen is a discussion of the issues behind it on the scale seen last year when people responded explosively to protesters’ actions. Despite the criticism, education cuts and fee rises became a hot topic that narrowed the majority of MPs voting in favour of the reform to a very uncomfortable swing.
The protesters were defeated last year and in attempting to reverse that defeat, needed to make an even greater impact today. They didn’t. Time will tell if legitimate peaceful protest or attention-grabbing direct action will have a greater effect.
I’ve added another satire article to the catalogue. ‘David Cameron “thrilled” that somebody actually likes him’ takes an alternative look at the reaction to the PM’s speech on the failure of multiculturalism and its interpretation by the English Defence League.
I’ve just added my most decently published article to the catalogue. It’s called ‘Rights deficit’ and discusses ways in which the government’s proposed cuts may contravene the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It was published in University of York magazine ‘The Zahir’, which publishes ‘London Review of Books’ style essay-length articles on a single topic per issue. The topic for that issue was human rights. The rest of the issue is well-worth reading, enjoy!