On air: Have you lost the argument if protests turn violent?

police-attack-at-g20“If I’m surrounded by police, then I shouldn’t be there”.
This was posted on our blog last night by Mark, a British soldier, after a video emerged of an apparently unprovoked attack by riot police on a man at last week’s G20 protests. The man now died and there are calls for an inquiry into the police’s actions. (Read Mark’s full post here) It comes after a very busy 24 hours for riot police across the globe. In Moldova they’ve regained control of the country’s parliament after it was stormed by protestors unhappy with the results of the weekend’s election. In Thailand thousands of protestors are back on the streets again, this time they want to get rid of the country’s Prime Minister.

Police are often accused of heavy-handedness in many countries (usually those with the strongest democracies), but how far should protests be allowed to go? If your protest turns violent have you lost the argument?

Some people would argue that in certain circumstances violence is the only way to get a point across — the ANC in South Africa in their fight against apartheid is a good example. It was only when they adopted violent, guerilla methods that their fight against racist oppression started to be won.

What about violence against property? Occupying buildings, or graffiti? If people aren’t being hurt, is that okay?

And what about in repressive countries where peaceful protest isn’t allowed? Is there ever a case where violence is a legitimate method of protest?

74 Responses to “On air: Have you lost the argument if protests turn violent?”

  1. 1 peter g
    April 8, 2009 at 10:34

    When this man died, BBC TV and radio (where most of us get our news from) barely mentioned it, except in passing. Only the WHYS blog did. I remember looking around for info on it and the only place there was anything worth reading was the Guardian, who are the ones who have unearthed this footage.

    While you thought this guy was ‘just a protestor’, his death wasn’t worth investigating. You took the police’s word for it that the only contact they had with him was trying to save his life. A week later it’s finally worth a mention. I am disgusted by BBC “journalism”.

  2. 2 Mari
    April 8, 2009 at 10:37

    Riot police are not nice people, wherever you are in the world. And protestors, just by the act of demonstrating against whatever it is, are not ‘fair play’.

    Ros talked about whether it is ok to use violence to achieve your aims (on WHYS TV) the other day. Surely the same finger wagging should apply to police as well as civilians?

    Even if one person, or 100 get violent, that doesn’t make it ok for the security forces to get beat them or anyone else. The rule of law is supposed to apply: the police aren’t allowed to baton a violent criminal (they can subdue him/her with approved techniques) on any other day, so why can they do it with impunity in a protest situation?

    Any halfwit knows that the G20 were not particularly violent and all but a small minority felt perfectly safe and calm the entire day. It’s only when they got home to watch the news did they become aware that they were in fact ‘violent’ protests.

  3. 3 Mari
    April 8, 2009 at 10:46

    s beating a passer by with his hands in his pocket “Doing their job” mark? I appreciate that it is not easy for the police in many situations (in my local area for instance), but does that absolve the police officer who pushed this man to the ground?

    Because you have signed away your right to protest and speak, does that mean i don’t have that right either?

    “but if I am surrounded by police, I should not be there. ”

    And by your logic, if the police are there in force, then my right to have my say in my own country (where i pay taxes and contribute to this economy with my hard work) is automatically null? THEY decide what I can do?

  4. 4 Dennis Okumu
    April 8, 2009 at 12:46

    ‘If am surrounded by police, i shouldn’t be there’. yeah you dem right,

    am saddened by the death of this man, and who ever had a hand in it shouldn’t be left to go scot free,

    my sympathy goes out to those of us who love crouds. and whenever they here of a demo, they can’t wait to hit the streats.

    you know, as much as we aught to press the politicians with such demos so they listen to us, we should as well be brave enough to know when we are fighting a loosing battle, which would be better if not fought.

    am not entirelly blaming the sherif for the man’s death, if we look well enough, we’ll see that things really get messy in such like charged up demo.and in the attempt to prevent an escallation, anything can happen.

    the sheriff could mess you up in a demo, but lets not forget that they are working on oders, and trying to do thier job, which is to ensure law and order is observed. in other words, they are only trying to keep their jobs.

    one more thing,
    think about it, will yeah?
    whenever you are walking across a poorly lite street, and you have that nagging feeling that you are valnarable, and you are just about to be magged, and then the next being you see, is a police on patrol,
    lets be honest. you breath a sigh of relife. infact even those of us who never say hellow to the sheriff will easily say it with a broad smile.

    my point is,
    in such like instances, lets not just bash the police and condemn then like they are a bad ommen.
    the nitty-grittys of the who authorised what, who slagged in their duty, who overreacted and so on and so forth. will make a better case.

    by this i mean, the government and the NGO bosses involved.

    and by the way,
    have you noticed that in such demos, you never see the activites being stumbled upon by both the crowns or the police.
    maybe its because they know the danger ahead and opt to play it safe.
    only they keep forgetting to worn others of the possible repercussions. not that it will change a thing, but just so they know.

  5. 5 gary
    April 8, 2009 at 13:11

    The intelligence of a group (i.e. its ability to decide and agree actions based upon current data) varies as the reciprocal of its size. This relationship applies to mobs of all kinds; police and protesters included. This fact, coupled with the tendency of individuals in a coherent group to assign responsibilities for the behaviors of an opposing group to any one member of that group, often leads to a violent outcome. That this occurs in societies that honor freedom of assembly should shock no one. The important lesson here is that free societies should strive to address important issues (the economic climate being a good example of importance) early, and in ways that insure fair consideration of the greatest number of members of the society. A man died; a man killed him. Better control of financial practices would have allowed each to go home to his loving family at ease. One cannot “fix” human nature; but many of the causes for folks going off the rails can be repaired. It is here efforts should be focused.

  6. 6 Iddi Musyemi
    April 8, 2009 at 14:30

    This is a hard one! Iam just thinking how an argument turns to protest. First there is chestbeating, then taking hard stands, one side calls the mass to the street to show off some kind of a power and popular support, then the other side sends in police to quell the protests and “restore order by all means.” All the while the scheme of the thing has been orchestrating violence, and that is what an “argument” begets!
    It reminds me “Mass action” in Kenya after the botched elections. What was the argument in the first place?

  7. 7 Steve in Boston
    April 8, 2009 at 15:04

    I watched the video, and I do not believe that was an unprovoked attack. Tomlinson was obviously the looking to provoke a confrontation. He was clearly told to leave the scene and had a dozen police calmly escorting him away him. He was lallygagging, stalling, trying to impede the police, and asking for a beating. In a large demonstration like that, the police have no duty to start treating each of the thousands of protesters with kid gloves. He got what he was looking for, and now the anarchists are using a video clip whic–shows virtually nothin–to try to tear down the structure of law and order.

    If you live in a democracy, there is no excuse for violence, and it should not be tolerated. You change the system by voting, and if the majority doesn’t agree with you, tough luck. That doesn’t give you the right to destroy property or hurt people.

    The police need to step up their game against the protesters, otherwise they are only encouraged. It’s clear what the protesters want to do–they want to provoke news footage of the police acting like Nazis. It’s a propaganda war. At some point however the police are going to have to bring out the tear gas, dogs, and live ammunition, or lose control of the situation.

  8. April 8, 2009 at 15:05

    There is always the potential for violence when a group gathers and there will always those who love/like violence. No one expects it to result in death. There is little likelehood in a death occuring moslty but lets not get it out of perspective. This is not like the racial stuff of Alabama where the National Guard are on ‘lock and load’. Britain has a great police force mostly. What I don’t understand is where a populace turn a blind eye to ‘heavy handedness’ and there is lots of that in the USA. A woman tased and chained to a chair for being loud and obnoxious and left to die right there? A guy got naked in Pensacola and banging his head against shop windows filled with lead for being ‘disturbed’? A guy in Jax on his own doorstep trying to get rid of druggies gunned down by ‘undercover’ cops’ who don’t see it ‘his way’? Thank your lucky stars Britain?

  9. 9 Roy, Washington DC
    April 8, 2009 at 15:07

    Not necessarily, but you sure aren’t going to help your cause with violence. Once you resort to name-calling or violence, you have given up on intelligent discussion, and you are trying to impose your views by brute force.

  10. April 8, 2009 at 15:12

    Three points:

    1. I heard an interview on World Service last week during which an expert stated that the majority who collect to demonstrate do so with peaceful intent, however, there are a few who are purposefully looking for trouble and mix in with the peaceful majority in order to cause harm / disruption / chaos. This makes sense, and therefore it also makes sense that the majority needs to take charge of their demonstration in order to assure it is peaceful. When violence is reported, shown on TV, etc. the general public does not say, “oh it’s just a few”. Everyone participating and every cause they represent are besmirched by the violence.

    2. Public gatherings are a hallmark of democracy. Those who love democracy will honor this right peacefully and they will assure that it is not abused by a minority of rabble-rousers. Police are committed to assure the public peace… so long as a demonstration is peaceful, police nerves are calm and the demonstrators can make their case without worry.

    3. The only demonstrations I have seen work in my lifetime have been in the Gandhi / King art of peaceful protest. In order for this to work, there must be cameras / news media to document the numbers of marchers and the peacefulness of their action (and to show that any violence comes from the police, if there is violence). This requires a lot of organization, practice to remain disciplined, and a deep commitment to one’s cause.

  11. 11 VictorK
    April 8, 2009 at 15:48

    The idea that the ANC’s incompetent campaign of comedy terrorism affected the apartheid regime is risible.

    Violence is often justified, though it should be a last resort. The Poll Tax Riots against Mrs Thatcher were justified. Here was a government imposing a policy on the nation that the bulk of the people were passionately opposed to. Only violent demostrations – including an attempt to storm Downing Street – brought the government to its senses: the poll tax was subsequently abandoned. The police took a good beating on that occasion, and deserved to.

    If I were to push a police officer over, and a few minutes later he was dead of a heart attack, the police would rightly charge me with murder. This man (who was not even a demonstrator, just an office worker returning home) was killed by a police officer. Manslaughter certainly; perhaps even murder. In future protestors will be justified in using pre-emptive violence to protect themselves against our increasingly lawless & criminal police (Menezes). Governments & the police should always be in fear of the people, not the other way round. If it takes violence to get that message across, then very well. They are our servants.

  12. 12 archibald in Oregon
    April 8, 2009 at 15:48

    Violence should never be the goal, but, violence does occur when you have opposing groups sharing a common space with two totally different agendas. Unfortunately, and in many cases, the police are against the demonstrators on an ideological level, because, the people who pay police salaries or have some say in their overall prosperity are the ones being protested, directly or indirectly.
    Let us not forget that those who choose to be police are not all the good samaritans society perceives them to be and by the same token, not all protesters are interested in doing good deeds. In fact, most protests that go wrong are usually fueled by marginal elements and minor skirmishes which affect everyone and the ways in which they react.
    That said, I have never seen a protest where the police and/or the peacekeeping force were peaceful, quite the contrary. In contrast, I have never seen a people wearing a bandanas in broad daylight who were minding their own business either, maybe it was the tear gas……..

  13. 13 Anthony
    April 8, 2009 at 16:02

    No way! That is how revolutions are started! Sometimes it’s NEEDED to get your point across. I think that 9/11 was a type of protest, and they sure did get their points across.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  14. 14 Matt in Oregon
    April 8, 2009 at 16:11

    Yes. Whether its in London for the G20 or Seattle for the WTO, when these protests turn violent not only do they lose their credibility but also the news story about the protest revolves around the violence and vandalism and not what may have been legitimate criticisms.

    Here in the US at least, there is a sort of anarchist “underground” that goes to these protests simply because they can riot and vandalize with relative impunity and anonymity.

    They ruin what could otherwise have been a succesfull demonstration with real concerns about whatever they are protesting.

  15. 15 Kaisa Heikkilä
    April 8, 2009 at 16:22

    Two important things should be looked at.
    The first is that riot police often acts more violent against nonviolent direct action. This could be seen for example during the G20, where the climate camp was roughly evicted by riot police and snatch squats.
    The second thing is that when one looks at history nonviolent protest often has no result at all. Some years ago for example there were some huge demonstrations against government regulations. The highways and public transport were totally clogged. This had no effect, while at the same time a couple of hundred squatters gained what they wanted by throwing just a couple of bricks. It is sad but true, sometimes the people will have to use violence (or threats of violence) against there governments when something has to change.

  16. 16 Tom D Ford
    April 8, 2009 at 16:30

    “If your protest turns violent have you lost the argument?”

    That is too sweeping a generalization.

    My country, the USA, was founded through violent protests that our Founders then turned into the Revolution of 1776 to extremely violently change the government from subservience to King George to our government that President Lincoln described as “government of The People, by The People, and for The People” which we are still striving to achieve and perfect.

    We won the argument against King George.

    So the very Foundation of the USA is violent protest and revolution, it is the bedrock that our house is built upon.

    Thomas Jefferson even said words something like “we ought to shed the blood of tyrants from time to time through revolution just to keep our freedom”. I’ll try to find that quote and post it properly.

    But! Historically most protests are put down and most revolutions did not go as planned, so I would not make the generalization that they are all good.

    The Founders of the USA wrote out, signed, and published their arguments in their declaration to the world, our Declaration of Independence and they put their lives on the line by doing so, they put everything on the line and fortunately for us they won.

  17. 17 Donnamarie in Switzerland
    April 8, 2009 at 16:32

    A “demonstration” that turns violent becomes by definition a riot and, yes, the argument of peaceful demonstrators is lost at that point.

    Violence against property during the course of a riot is also a crime. Civil disobedience and riots (and destruction of property during a riot) are not the same thing and should not be equated, no matter how laudable the reason for the original demonstration.

  18. 18 Jessica in NYC
    April 8, 2009 at 16:41

    The reason for each protest is different, but the purpose of all of them is the same, to bring attention to an issue and demonstrate descent from he status quo.

    Protest often turn violent is here in US, because police violate our rights to protest. With all due respect to Mark, police and all other civil servants, who I acknowledge have a difficult job to do, but you are sometimes the cause of protest turning violent. I have done legal monitoring of protests with the sole purpose of watching police to make sure they did not violate protesters rights to voice their opinions against the government.

  19. 19 Jessica in NYC
    April 8, 2009 at 16:49

    @ Mark, British soldier,

    I agree if a protest turns violent, I am should not be there. However, if you cannot speak on behave of all law enforcement any more than I can of all protesters. Each side is culpable for the violence and needs to assume responsibility for their part in inciting the violence. There were a couple of frightening moments during one of the protest I was a legal monitor. Mind you, all legal monitors had been authorized by the mayor to observe police and protest. One, I was between police and protester to diffuse an argument so it did not escalate caused by a protester who fell off a side walk and the cop wanted to arrest him (protests could not be on the street only sidewalk). The second, in one much more personal case, police were blocking people out of entering the peaceful protest and I had to intervene. So the cops turned their aggression to me and six large cops surrounded me. They stared at me from head to toe and I had already given the silent queue to the other monitors to document the situation (with videos and cameras) but stay back that I was ok. The cops said inappropriate explicit things to provoke me so they could have cause to arrest me. I could feel one of the cops standing behind me breathing on my ear, but I remained calm and did not move a muscle so that nothing I did could be interpreted as violent. Once cop could have physically overpowered me, six of them was an abuse of power and violation.

  20. 20 VictorK
    April 8, 2009 at 16:49

    @Steve in Boston: Mr Tomlinson wasn’t part of the protests. I understand that he was a newspaper vendor. He had finished work and was trying to make his way home, only to be obstructed by the police. Even if he had been demonstrating I fail to see how the police were justified in assaulting him, from behind, without provocation, while he was walking away from them. The police did act like Nazis. We need to abandon the illusion that these things only happen in third world countries. If Morgan Tsvangirai had died in similar circumstances facing ‘Mugabe’s security forces’ (as the BBC would have reported it) the world would have treated with contempt any claims that he had been ‘asking for a beating’. Every police force is a potential danger to the civilian population, who need to maintain the maximum vigilance in regulating and controlling them.

    Though I had little sympathy with the protestors, I will always prefer their spirit of disobedience, independence and readiness to use violence, to the complete submission to police and state that some think are the marks of ‘democracy’.

    Violence should never be ruled out.

  21. 21 Jennifer
    April 8, 2009 at 16:54

    Yes, I think that an argument seeking to be valid is lost if violence becomes the means of getting your message across.

    Those 9/11 hijackers sure did get their point across! To the tune of how many innocent lives? Needed? No way! A legitimate protest, no. Radical, crazy? Yes!

  22. 22 Tom D Ford
    April 8, 2009 at 16:58

    Here are two quotes from Thomas Jefferson about protests:

    “A little rebellion now and then is a good thing and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical.

    THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to James Madison, Jan. 30, 1787

    The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

    THOMAS JEFFERSON, letter to W.S. Smith, Nov. 13, 1787”



  23. 23 deryck /Trinidad
    April 8, 2009 at 17:03

    Protests by their very nature are antagonistic with both police and protesters looking for an opportunity to accuse the other of violence. Most times violence is the only way people can effectively get their point across because those in authority don,t respect dialogue and diplomacy and only bow when the anachronistic animal nature of the mob is seen.

  24. April 8, 2009 at 17:05

    “If I’m surrounded by police, then I shouldn’t be there”.

    By that standard, no one should be in the entire state of Texas.

  25. April 8, 2009 at 17:17

    I am travelling in Thailand at the moment and am currently in an internet cafe in a very hot bangkok. I have just come back from the peaceful protest which is happening about 4 blocks away from where I am staying. Although it is late in the evening here people are still peacefully protesting against the government, and demanding the removal of the prime minister. While I was there riot police arrived and set up outside one of the government buildings. Despite this both the police and the protesters were very relaxed laughing and joking with each other. However despite the very friendly welcome from all concerned a number of Thai’s I have spoken to have questioned how much longer the protest will remain non violent. 2 to 3 people said that if there was no change in the next two days the protest would turn violent. The non violent protest has been active for quite a while now and has had mixed success. They achieved the most press coverage by closing Bangkok airport last year, but otherwise some of the protesters felt that they had not achieved enough press recognition.

  26. 26 Jessica in NYC
    April 8, 2009 at 17:18

    @ Tom D. Ford

    Ah, one of my heros, I have studied his speeches:
    “God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … What country before ever existed a century and half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve its liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”

    Thomas Jefferson, November 13, 1787 in a letter to William S. Smith.

  27. April 8, 2009 at 17:37

    Demonstrations and popular unrest occur when law and order has broken down. Every politician should be prepared to face protests, violent or otherwise. Every commoner has the right to be heard, by force if needs be.
    The notion that protesters should be peaceful and calm is misconstrued. People are on the streets because their rights have been violated. They are on the street to protest a muzzled press, forced arrest, ban on assembly and the one party system. Politicians don’t want to know because the law is heavily rigged in their favour and never takes the side of the underdog

  28. 28 Dave in Florida
    April 8, 2009 at 17:40

    Crowds that turn violent have no credibility all. Many good causes have been dealt a death blow by foolish protesters who turn violent, then they can not understand why people do not take them seriously.

    If you are going to be violent — you can expect violence right back at you. And if it’s OK for you to use violence against others, how can you say it is not all right for them to use violence back at you?

  29. April 8, 2009 at 17:47

    CORRECTION The closure of Bangkok Airport was not due to the same people who are protesting now. Sorry for my mistake.

  30. 30 archibald in Oregon
    April 8, 2009 at 17:47

    Jennifer, So is the argument about whether Iraq should be a democratic country now lost because we killed a million civilians, trying to prove our point?
    If only it had really been the hijackers that brought the towers down, not months of planned demolition. Desperate times…………

  31. 31 Anthony
    April 8, 2009 at 17:51

    @ Donnamarie in Switzerland

    You’re looking at it through Swiss eyes though. No offence, but Switzerland didn’t help much when millions of Jews and other minorities were being slaughtered. In places like America in the 1770’s, some understand you must fight violence with violence. Its the FINAL resolution.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  32. 32 Savane
    April 8, 2009 at 17:53

    About a month ago, one of Nairobi University students were allowed to hold a peaceful demo through the city to express their feelings about the killing of two civil society activists that many Kenyans were appalled by. Our public university students have a reputation for promising to hold peaceful demos but they never end that way. Our PM gave them the benefit of the doubt and the demo was allowed.
    That day, I (and other doubting Nairobians) planned our day and commute routes for the inevitable. Suprisingly, the demo was peacful and even had police escort! Peaceful until, true to form, some students decided to hijack trucks, block a major city highway and steal and destroy property.

    The validity of their cause was lost and our support too!

    A couple of weeks ago, students fron Kenyatta University held a demo that deteriorated into property destruction and chaos. Campus buildings were burnt, students injured, one subsequently dying. The University has been temporarily closed

    While their reasons for demonstrating are considered valid (some were, others were in my opinion a tantrum for not getting their way) they lost public sympathy and support.

    If the initial strategy wasn’t to be violent, and the demo turns violent, then you better get out of there if you don’t want to get caught up in the police solution of quelling violence with ‘violence’!

  33. 33 Anthony
    April 8, 2009 at 17:54

    @ Dave in Florida

    It all comes down to the fact that the winners write the history books. If they “win”, then it was credible. If they “lose” then they were just a bunch of stupid rioters.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  34. 34 Erin in Portland OR
    April 8, 2009 at 17:56

    Well, the instance that comes to mind for me is not at all recent. The Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles, CA in 1992. Without those riots, which were indisputably horrible, I wonder how much longer the racial tensions would have built in LA before they imploded. The recession and poverty of certain areas of the city are said to have played a part in the riots which were sparked by the verdict of the Rodney King trial as well. I think good things came out of that horrible event. Would so much have been accomplished without so much horror? As sad as it is to think so, I don’t believe people would have motivated so strongly without the riots. So my answer has to be no, an argument is not lost if it turns violent. Perhaps in the moment it gets overshadowed, but it is not lost.

  35. 35 Steve in Boston
    April 8, 2009 at 17:58

    @VictorK–Good luck to you my friend. I’ll be watching you on television. What goes around comes around. 🙂

  36. April 8, 2009 at 18:17

    You haven’t lost the argument if you demonstrate violently. Sometimes, your argument gains more support because violence makes more headlines, attracting more attention to your cause. The media usually appears to side against the police if anybody gets hurt or killed and the police can be blamed, so this can lead to more support for the cause which is the subject of the protests.

    On the other hand, you can alienate your cause because people who don’t support violence may feel that supporting certain causes is the same as, or can be confused with, supporting the violencee that occurs in the name of the cause. People who don’t want to be associated with violence may not want to associate themselves with causes that attract violent demonstraters.

  37. 37 Luci Smith
    April 8, 2009 at 18:20

    Mahatma Ghandi was right!
    Non-violence is the answer to everything.
    Please keep protesting, but use your imagnation to find peaceful methods to wear down your oppressors.

  38. 38 Jeremie, US
    April 8, 2009 at 18:24

    I disagree with those use violence the way to express. Brutality or Violence raise by protestor are not effective. All forms of violence is wrong. Where is the point having a freedom of speech. When ever there is violence from the protestor that lead to more retaliation from the police.
    If you say violence it’s okay to make your point, you immediately legalized the rebellion in Africa and violence committee by war lord. I think violence in all form it’s wrong and lead to more violence.

  39. 39 Brinda
    April 8, 2009 at 18:25

    I am sorry for this mans family.

    Yes ,an augment is lost when there is violence. Nothing is good comes out of violence . There are a couple of revolutions that have been effective with Violence but it was against opponents who are ruthless and violent. There was no law during those times.Violence may have been the only resort or the last one .

    Things have changed ,,there is a law and order in this society .Man i think has progressed ( hopefully) and has learn t some lessons for such events.

    In my opinion Demonstrations/rally’s are not effective anymore,and too risky.The crowd is too big to be controlled and directed .There needs to be focus in a demonstration and i don’t see really strong leaders who can do that anymore.No offense.
    There is a lot of chance for trouble makes to take advantage.

    Can’t we get anymore creative about the way we protest ?

  40. 40 Dave in Florida
    April 8, 2009 at 18:26

    @ Anthony

    All the more reason to be a “winner.” Quite a horrible catch-22 isn’t it?

    The thing to keep in mind is that for everyone who agrees with a protest, there is another person who disagrees with it. In fact, at times there are even more people who disgree.

  41. 41 Frederick, Boston
    April 8, 2009 at 18:26

    I believe we have distorted the role of protest within society. There is an increasing sentimentality throughout the world that if any one or group has any discontent, they can take to the streets and make noise. Free speech also has its limits, and this is something we rarely acknowledge. What is unfortunate is the belief that the power of our message is augmented through violent protests. I do not condone violence in any form, but when our actions are designed to interupt social order, then we must be prepared to deal with the consequences. Just as our governments have responsibilities to us, we also have responsibilities to our governments and each must demonstrate respect for the other in our pursuit of just, peaceful, and equittable societies.

  42. 42 Anthony
    April 8, 2009 at 18:26

    @ Luci Smith

    Ghandi is over rated. If the whole world thought “Non-Violence” was the answer to all, then it would take just one man to think differently, with a big old gun, and would rule the world and do what ever he wanted.

    If someone is trying to break into my house to steal and kill me and my son, should I protest non-violently for him to stop?

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  43. 43 Mark, Texas
    April 8, 2009 at 18:27

    Herbert Marcuse states that when the police wade in, you know that your protest is effective. That doesn’t mean that protesters should initiate violence. It does mean that effective peaceful protest is met by the power of the state.

    Arguments for or against popular violence are simplistic, even inane. It’s easy to point to cases of popular resistance that we agree with, and praise those who resorted to violence in a good cause. It is also easy to forget those cases where popular violence was for an evil cause—the Tulsa Race Riot, for example. Is it violence that’s at issue? Or the virtue of the cause?

  44. 44 Luci Smith
    April 8, 2009 at 18:30

    2 years ago, the young people in Copenhagen protested because their house, Ungdomshuset, got sold to a religious group. Lots of riots and negative energy.
    In the long run, the religious group turned out to be speculators who cannot sell the razed ground, the riots cost lots of money, including a high school (gymnasium it is called) who got fire-bombed and now, the woman who is Mayor of Copenhagen has decided to call it quits (for numerous reasons) as of the end of this year.
    The kids were right in protesting against the building being sold, since they had been given the place with rights to use it.
    The only positive thing that I can see that came out of it was that the current Danish Government with its right-liberal coalition lost lots of voters to the cause, even though it was not a national issue. “Ungdomshuset”- the young people’s house made us all aware of the needs that our city has to meet for different groups and the need for non-commercial meeting places.
    I hope that it could be a lesson to other cities that we all need public places where we can gather without having to spend lots of money and that it will ultimately bring down governments when they ignore the voices of people. I sure could have done without the riots, even though I sympathize with the kids who lost their great house. And of course, the city-subsidized, sanitized new venue has been expensive and is empty!

  45. 45 Steve, US
    April 8, 2009 at 18:31

    Farley said that it’s probably not a big deal if protesters break windows at McDonalds. Basically trying to say that shouldn’t be considered violence. First, Mcdonalds stores are franchies, meaning some individual owns it, not some massive corporation. So it’s some private individual who bought the right to sell McDonalds food who is harmed, not some massive corporation that people blame all of their problems on.
    Also, even if some massive corporation owned ever McDonalds’ outlet, are we saying that some kind of damage shouldn’t count? Should we extend that to stealing? So if you steal a dollar from the government or a massive company like walmart, charges shouldn’t have been filed since it’s only a dollar and they have tons and tons of money?

  46. 46 Jean Sommer
    April 8, 2009 at 18:31

    Violence begets violence and that’s what happened when the police arrived on the scene in London last week at the peaceful protest that was in progress. If the police had stayed away or behaved in a nonviolent manner all would have been OK. I remember one demo, in London, that I was in where we were peacefully marching,suddenly the police surrounded one small group of us and said we had to stay on that spot until they decided to let us go. They said it was because the tube station was over crowded. It was only because there were a few strong-willed pacifist leaders in the group who were able to keep the younger hotheads under control and we had been given a legitimate reason for the inconvenience that we remained calm..

  47. 47 Tom D Ford
    April 8, 2009 at 18:33

    A couple of points:

    When have police ever protested against property owners and actually protected the People who have been hurt by the property owners?

    Most protests are against people who place far higher value on property than on people.

  48. 48 Luci Smith
    April 8, 2009 at 18:37

    Anthony – in the case of a break in, please put yourself and your son in a locked room and call the police.
    I do not believe that citizens ought to have guns. That is why I moved to Denmark, where I have to call the police and let them deal with a burglar. And he ought not to have a weapon there, since one is not supposed to!
    I ride a bicycle, too and do not expect that every car looks out for me, but I wear a helmet when it is proscribed and put lights on at night and certainly do obey rules in traffic and if a truck is bearing down on me, I move out of the way.
    I consider cars to be weapons of mass destruction with myself behind the wheel.
    And I disagree completely with your take on M.Ghandi. Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Ghandi are my heroes for endorsing non-violence when most of us would have become violent.

  49. 49 Nathan
    April 8, 2009 at 18:42

    We all remember Gandi! Name one violent protrestor with name recognition.

    In my 60+ years of life only four violent protest stand out, Hungary 1957, Prague Spring 1968, East Germany 1953, Watts 1965. Sadly, none were succssful in themselves.

  50. 50 Louisa Arndt
    April 8, 2009 at 18:46

    Do the protesters lose if the protest turns violent? If that notion were accepted, it would provide even more incentive for authorities to seed the gathering with a few trouble-makers. We’ve seen this in Seattle, in Atlanta, in many places where masked infiltrators throw bricks, break windows, turn over police cars, and the like. The police then use this (manufactured) violence as an excuse for use of clubs, horses, tear gas, fire hoses, and similar abuse.
    The huge protests held around the world failed to halt the American invasion of Iraq, yet they have not been forgotten. I doubt that violence would have proved any more effective.

  51. 51 Luci Smith
    April 8, 2009 at 18:49

    I cannot help but tell this story about the police in Denmark.
    When George W. Bush visited Denamrk, all of the country’s police were called out on overtime to protect him. From all over and around the clock for the 24+ hours he was here.
    When he had left Copenhagen, there was this GIGANTIC anti-Bush demonstration in front of our Parliament building, the Folketinget, with concerts and the usual Danish demo-speeches.
    At that demonstration, there were TWO police officers on motorcycles- one at either end of the street keeping the cars from driving through, because it was a demonstration that had been planned and applied for a permit.
    It was such a fun thing and a great relief after all of the pent-up politician puffiness and Importance, the helcopters whizzing overhead and the seas of police we had seen during the visit.
    And of course, there were no officers to bust criminals for ages afterwards and the whole policing system went to pieces and we are still having problems with it, 4 years on!
    But my point is, that those of us at the demonstration just had to be protected from the cars and we were all ecstatic that the Stupidest President had made his exit.
    Obviously, it must have made a lasting impression, since our generous host Prime Minister finally got a job with NATO. Excess breeds more excess, so keep an eye on those bills for helicopter rides, fellow NATO members.

  52. 52 Anthony
    April 8, 2009 at 18:53

    @ Luci Smith

    Thats fine and all, yet when Germany rolled on into Denmark in the 40’s, they had to give up after 2 days of fighting….no weaopons, no training, not much of anything. So where would Denmark be without the gun loving Americans and Brits?

    And if someone was trying to break in, I would call the police, lock my bedroom door, and sit under the bed with my buck shot in my shot gun, which would give me a way better chance without the gun.

    -Anthony,LA, CA

  53. 53 Anthony
    April 8, 2009 at 18:54

    @ Luci Smith

    Try doing that kind of demontration in China, thats the point.

  54. 54 patrick
    April 8, 2009 at 18:55

    The idea that the British police are not politicised, and that they do not ‘take sides,’ needs to be challenged. The G20 leaders and their staff meeting in London last week were certainly not subject to the same tactics (kettling etc) that were employed against the protestors. The UK police, like the UK media, cultivates a myth of its independence and its impartiality which, sadly, they are all too often allowed to get away with.

  55. 55 saad khosa
    April 8, 2009 at 18:59

    The violence give life to the protest as then they are focused by the media. The purpose of the protestors is to be heared so the violence does this purpose.

  56. 56 Tom Hastings
    April 8, 2009 at 19:34

    Jenni Williams makes the best points.
    Mostly, protests are recruitment, movement-building events and violence almost never recruits as many as does active nonviolence.
    The guy from Pakistan needs to be corrected. Self-defense can be violent or nonviolent. He makes a false dichotomy.

  57. 57 Raymond
    April 8, 2009 at 19:36

    the police are government agents there to carry out orders of the politicians who order their commanders. Their purpose is to keep the public away from their masters and protect their masters from the truth.

    protesters want to burst the bubble but no bubble has ever been burst silently.

    have you ever seen a politician responding to a quiet nudge in the right direction.

  58. 58 Michael
    April 8, 2009 at 19:54

    The truth is voilence is the best way of drawing the attention of the govt for change.As corruption hs eaten all official, no 1 is ready work for good.

  59. 59 Tom D Ford
    April 8, 2009 at 19:57

    Although some people took heart from the success of Gandhis’ non-violent protests the other side took away a very different lesson.

    The wealthy and powerful studied it and figured out methods and ways to make it ineffective and taught themselves to ignore it and go ahead and keep doing their oppressive behaviors.

    So. What will happen in the future? Will protesters have to get more violent to get their message across, will the powers that oppress get more violent in putting down all protests?

    I sure don’t know!

  60. 60 patrick
    April 8, 2009 at 22:31

    I hate to be pedantic, but actually a bubble bursting is in fact a near noiseless event.

  61. 61 Art O Laoghaire
    April 9, 2009 at 00:05

    The former Assistant Police Commissioner is not correct when he proudly asserted that rubber bullets were never used in the UK.
    In the north western province of the United Kingdom of Britain and Northern Ireland, rubber bullets and later plastic bullets were used extensively, by the RUC and the British Army KILLING a total of 17 people (3 by rubber bullets in 1972-73) http://www.iol.ie/~pfc/policing/plastic/plastic23072001b.html.
    I hope for the sake of the families’ of Francis Rowntree, Tobias Molloy and Thomas Friel you clarify this.

  62. 62 Duffe
    April 9, 2009 at 05:07

    always it depends on which continent we are talking about. If u go violent in Africa, you may lose it all because the bullets will be opened on you so freely and no one will ever account for that. How ever, a hungry man is a angry man and in a situation where those who wield power close their case as is always the case in the continent, violence takes p residence over reason. The food riots are a case in point.

  63. 63 SorryCitizen
    April 9, 2009 at 07:54

    It really depends on the magnitude of the problem that you are highlighting. Some problem need immediate attention,your slight effort can have a huge impact.The question of violence or non-violence entirely depends on the individual.If you are a firm believer of non-violence then you need to have a lot of patience and the courage to stand by that, even if your efforts look bleak and you don’t see an end.

    If you believe in violence and think that violence is the only solution to highlight your problem, then you need to stand by it.

    Besides, “Isn’t ‘Terrorism’ a form of violent protest to highlight your concern issues whatever it may be?????? “

  64. April 9, 2009 at 09:47

    Sudan/ JUba

    In place like Africa violence never change the life of the people, instate it brings more paint than solution, today I don’t like police because of their atrocities I often see in my area, where one day in a bar near our home, soldiers and police give no respect to one of disable men, pushing back and front if there are many things.

  65. April 9, 2009 at 10:59

    No,violence is sometimes the only way to show the matter is serious and urgent – people will die for their beliefs when pushed to the limit.
    But then you have to be absolutely sure the violence is instigated by the ligitimate demonstrators and not by proffessional troubleshooters who are planted there by government. This tactic is used by the authorities when they want to impliment changes in law and control regulation and want their actions to be seen to answer the demands of the public. It is the way they bring about incrimental change and people are not aware of the damage they do to civil liberties in the process

  66. April 9, 2009 at 11:34

    if protestors know nothing of what they are protesting for or supporting,then the struggle is lost.and if the police think that they are just a wall for politicians,then they know nothing about their job and they are just slaves.the city wall is meant to protect both politicians and the guys police think are useless.afterall,the police pay comes from protestors too……as for kenya,i expect kwekwe and rhino squads to offer me security,although i hear that they kill the innocents.


  67. April 9, 2009 at 14:54

    Its quite simple – if you believe in something enough to move to violence, you should expect nothing less than harsh measures in return. Even if harsh measures include getting yourself killed. When any belief moves you to violence, either step back and rethink what it is you’re doing – or be prepared to go the full distance. You dont “dip your toe” into violent protests etc. That borders on “sort of” shooting at someone, or only lighting someone on fire “a little bit”. Police around the world will elevate responses to control/counter whatever level of threat you’re producing. In some countries, police forces are not as watch-dogged as within the US and UK. The “woe is me!” needs to quit. Revolutions are not simple things. If you plan on starting/initiating one – be prepared to finish it. Dont expect it to be a simple process of lobbying, and talking…To quote a rather lame saying “You’ve got to pay to play.”

  68. 68 Luci Smith
    April 11, 2009 at 19:19

    Back again to have the last word….

    I actually emigrated to Denmark after growing up in Texas, because I prefer to live in a society that does not give citizens the right to bear arms. I grew up before the NRA and Ronald reagan brainwashed Anthony and others into thinking that anybody besides police and hunters ought to own a gun.
    When I was young, only the drug dealers had guns in cities if it was not the police or a hunter.

    As to nonviolence, Saul Alinsky was an orgnaizer from Chicago who was ingenious at thinking up ways for people to get their messages across without using violence. One of the famous threats was to buy tickets to the Symphony Concert i Rochester, New York and get people to fart during the concerts!
    Please google Saul Alinsky, who being from Chicago has probably been one of the people who shaped the neighborhood organizer who is now the 44th president of the US.
    Some of us have studied sociology and back in the 1970’s, before the cheat-em and leave-em mentality came in, we wanted to learn how to change things with non-violence so that there was room for everybody in the world. Now with the cheater’s mentality showing itself to be bankrupt, I hope that we can give the world some ideas about how we can change it for the better for everyone by non-violence instead of gating it and turning it into an air-conditioned dog-park. The world of guns and dog-loving people who hate others and drive SUV’s is bankrupt. Non-violence and neighborhood organizing is the way to change it!

  69. 69 Luci Smith
    April 11, 2009 at 19:27

    I wrote a long post which did not take on the system.
    To make it short, try googling Saul Alinsky, who was an organizer from Chicago, who invented ways of non-violent protest.
    I am certain that these methods are part of the path that led to a neighborhood organizer from Chicago being elected as the 44th President of the United States. It is about thinking outside of the box. You have to spend time inventing things and outsmart your opponents, but it is the way to go. NOn-violence is the best way to fight anybody and anything.

    And the Danish Resistance did their part when Denmark was occcupied. Anyway, I grew up in Dallas, Texas and chose to emigrate to Denmark because they have no right to bear weapons but a right to Universal Health Care and free University education. We pay taxes. It makes sense, doesn’t it? Well, it does to me, anyway. But I am old enought to remember how people used to think before they got brainwashed by Ronald Reagan and the NRA. Just ask George Clooney. He’s my age and he is not brainwashed, either!

  70. 70 Jim Newman
    April 12, 2009 at 01:19

    Hello again
    Does the use of violence mean the one has lost the argument?
    Violence is violence and is resorted to when other means have failed.
    Naturally it is preferable to reach an agreement through negotiation which is the case in 90% of the time. In the case of NATO which is oposed by the majority of europeans then there is no alternative to vioilence. I speak for the people not for the lacky governements nor for the European Commission.

  71. 71 patrick
    April 12, 2009 at 23:07

    plainly, violence is regretable. We should be clear as to what constitutes violence, however. It is easy to label destruction of property as ‘violence.’ The effects of capitalism, psychological, social, aesthetic and ethical, are not typically identified as acts of ‘violence’ despite the fact that their destructive effects, on community, on personal wellbeing, on sustainability and on plain justice are horrifying beyond imagination, are our generation’s holocaust, for which, rightly, we will be judged as dimly as we judge the Nazis.

  72. 72 globalcomedy
    April 13, 2009 at 04:08

    First, I’m sorry that this guy in London tragically died. But keep a few points in mind.

    Here in the States, it’s much worse. You can be arrested for publically criticizing the Vice President. You can be beaten, tasered and arrested just because the police don’t like that you’re an acitivist. The MSM will NEVER show protestors. They’ll never question the Patriot Act (and Bush Executive Orders) because that’s “unpatriotic.” I could get sacked. So it’s better to just shut up.

    Using violence doesn’t mean you lost the argument. it’s used when all else fails. Under these current regulations, if riots broke out, Obama could declare martial law. Can Gordon Brown do the same in the U.K.?

  73. April 13, 2009 at 10:58

    Study history from time immemorial and the answer is inescapably no. More’s the pity.

  74. 74 Jaime Saldarriaga
    April 13, 2009 at 15:05

    In my opinion violence is ok only as a deffensive attitude in extreme circumstances like if one is attacked and needs to deffend his own life by using violence.

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