“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?