Are there limits to protest?

In Thailand hundreds if not thousands of red shirted anti-government protesters are donating their blood in order to collect it in bottles to throw at government buildings as a ritual sacrificial offering. They claim this is a demonstration of love for their country.  Is this a protest too far?

Recently there were protests in a Dutch Catholic Church against a priest refusing Holy Communion to an openly gay man. Is the right to protest absolute in a free society or was this a protest too far, this Dutch political party thought it was. Yet the protest seemed to work on this occasion, as communion is again offered to all. 

We can all remember the 2008 free Tibet protests that marred the journey of the Olympic torch in the run up the Beijing games. This video demonstartes the power of that protest that was seen around the world.

Some thought this was a legitimate protest and others thought it was wrong to involve the Olympic movement in this long political struggle? Do you think it was a legitimate protest? Where are the limits to protest? Who decides what is a legitimate protest and what is not?

Do protests always enrich and enliven democratic societies? This dynamic power that drives people’s desire to stand up and protest is it always a limitless right?

Or does protest keep freedom alive? do they continually challenging societies, cultures and political elites of all shades?

28 Responses to “Are there limits to protest?”

  1. March 16, 2010 at 16:10

    I have looked at a picture, it is not necessary explanations and the comment, was the Chinese expansion of socialism. Relay race of self-determination and the initiative were intercepted by China

    • 2 Angry Female Gamer
      March 17, 2010 at 21:12

      Oh here we go again, blame China for something that is completely unrelated. Maybe one should look in their own backyard and take responsibility for once.

  2. 3 nora
    March 16, 2010 at 16:35

    When all else fails, one takes to the streets hoping sheer numbers and collective will can topple the unjust. There is a limit to protest if one is comfortable or completely defeated. The Thai blood got your attention but we are talking about the tactics rather the underlying issues. Why not talk about the underlying issues and honor their protest with more than ‘the masses are revolting’?

  3. 4 pendkar
    March 16, 2010 at 17:23

    Pouring blood in the streets as a form of protest is unheard of. But it leaves no doubt about how passionate the protesters were.It was a more terrible sight than dead protesters lying in streets – very disturbing to see.But I dont think they crossed any unacceptable limits.They were only making their point. Short of resorting to direct violence, people should be allowed their protests.

  4. 5 paul
    March 16, 2010 at 18:34

    It would be great if the BBC could look at how so many of these (so called) protesters can afford to travel from the Country into Bangkok and stay Protest there.
    Concidering they need to work so hard to get any money. This highlights the point that they are BEING PAID to protest, by the ex-prime minister. Its crazy to protesting about a King and the Current Prime Minister who have been so good for Thailand in helping people. For this protest to be legitimate, and a real outcry from the PEOPLE we need to know if the protesters are being paid in order to get world attention. I pray that they may walk in the light and hold on to truth !!!

  5. 6 T
    March 16, 2010 at 18:50

    Tony Benn once made a good point. How do you keep a population under control? Keep them poor and ill-informed.

    In many countries, people are fighting back against this. As long as it legal and peaceful, there are no limits.

  6. 7 patti in cape coral
    March 16, 2010 at 18:54

    The methods of protest would depend on what you are protesting. Sometimes boycotting a product is enough, sometimes more drastic measures are needed. I woudl agree with T that as long as there is no violence there should be no limits.

  7. 8 teej
    March 16, 2010 at 18:56

    The limits to protest are directly proportional to how true democracy is in that place

  8. 9 audre
    March 16, 2010 at 20:28

    This type of protest is, once again, a tempest in a teacup, organized by those whose only aim is to manipulate the ill informed populace. What will they get if the government changes? More of the same…

    We should ALL be protesting the international private banking system that keeps the globe in chains.

  9. 10 Tom D Ford
    March 17, 2010 at 01:29

    I am old enough to remember the films on nightly TV and the pictures of Vietnamese Buddhist Monks setting themselves on fire and sitting there calmly burning themselves to death in protest of the Viet Nam War, in the late 1960s. I think they went too far but they sure were effective in getting the worlds attention to their grievances.

    And from afar, I am proud of the Founders of my country, the US, for protesting against the Kings Corporation and then their violent protesting Revolution of 1776 that overthrew the British rule and started on our still unfinished journey towards a government “of, by, and for the people”.

    So. Too far? Well, the limits are set way out there on the extremes, and those Thailand folks seem pretty tame.

  10. 11 Tan Boon Tee
    March 17, 2010 at 08:21

    How could the protest end when the red shirts believe that there is no other way to bring down the government which they consider illegitimate?

    All they want now is a new general election, a transparent and fair one. What’s wrong with that?

  11. 12 Linda from Italy
    March 17, 2010 at 13:36

    Your example 1: The Thai protest: sloppy reporting of your own reports, the protesters did not “throw the blood at government buildings” but poured it on the ground outside the fortress in which the Government were cowering, letting it seep through under the gate. An exceptionally poignant demonstration, using the protesters own blood as a metaphor for their plight at the same time not shedding the blood of others to make their point. While this may or may not have been orchestrated it was most effective.

  12. 13 Linda from Italy
    March 17, 2010 at 13:39

    Your example 2: The Catholic priest’s refusal to give communion to a gay Catholic: perfectly legitimate protest since this priest exceeded his powers, the sacrament is supposed to be administered to a person in a state of grace, something that is between that person and his/her own conscience. According to Catholic doctrine, provided you make an act of contrition, including silently, your sins are forgiven, something that priest could not have known.

  13. 14 Linda from Italy
    March 17, 2010 at 13:41

    Your example 3: The Olympic protest, you can’t get much more political than the Olympics, and China did everything it could to make political capital out of it, so it is a fair target.

    Any protest with peaceful intentions is legitimate. Violence cannot be condoned, but this is often sparked off by agents provocateurs planted by those against whom the protest is aimed.
    Breaking the law is a knotty problem because if the laws themselves are oppressive and aimed at suppressing dissent, they to not deserve to be obeyed.

  14. 15 steve
    March 17, 2010 at 13:45

    Blood can be a toxin, especially if the blood is infected with diseases. Would we allow people to protest using anthrax or ricin?

    Also, why not donate blood, rather than waste it like that?

  15. 16 Ronald Almeida
    March 17, 2010 at 15:01

    Yes there are limits to protests, the protesters own.

  16. 17 John in Salem
    March 17, 2010 at 15:09

    They may be rude, insensitive or simply idiotic, but as long as no one else’s rights are being violated in the process I believe that every person’s right to protest, complain or otherwise make an ass of themselves in public is fundamental to the concept of a free society.

    • 18 Angry Female Gamer
      March 17, 2010 at 21:15

      I agree. Why is it then, in those very protests during the Olympic Torch Relay in April, I, a woman of Chinese descent but completely British, was shouted and abused at, with the Tibetan flag forced upon me? I was only trying to get home, yet these protestors were nothing but peaceful.

  17. 19 Cabe UK
    March 17, 2010 at 17:07

    Yes there should be limits how you protest. But there are none. The Buddhist monk setting himself on fire to protest about the Viet Nam war ultimately did not stop the war… the G2 conference protestors in London last year protesting about climate change did not change anything except peoples perceptions about the protestors themselves and all the trouble and damage that they caused the city..
    The thing that caught my attention with the Thai protestors is that they AND the police there, held themselves ‘in check’ – They made their protest in a peaceful – almost partying manner and then they all went home! (this was before any mention of blood being thrown etc) –

    I think more orderly or peaceful protesters tend to make their point More than destructive or violent ones… the latter lumps themselves together with ‘terrorism’ and makes the viewer lose the plot about why they are protesting in the first place. People just concentrate on the protestors and their selfish, arrogant and meglo-maniacal behaviour instead!… In the end there is no point to the protest except to attract all the nutters and idiots who just want to have a fun time creating havoc, and who have nothing to do with the actual protest !

  18. 20 Clamdip
    March 17, 2010 at 18:27

    People wouldn’t protest if there was no corruption and their lives were easy.
    Governments have a way of spending citizen’s money and providing reduced services in return. This would not be the case if citizen’s held a tight grip on their nation’s purse strings and rooted out corruption wherever it was found. People want to live happy. simple lives free from war,greed and hunger. The best politician is one who doesn’t want anything and only believes in improving the lives of the average citizen. The world needs a new mindset and we need politicians that have the ability to think of the whole and can anticipate change and plan ahead. This is a higher order thinking skill that few politicians seem to posess.

  19. 21 Ronald Almeida
    March 17, 2010 at 21:41

    The protestors, however they do it are at least manifesting themselves in the real world rather than the couch poatoes like us who only pass comments on it.

  20. 22 T
    March 17, 2010 at 22:26

    The perfect example: the health care “debate” in the States. The anti-single payer lobby is spending $1 million a day to stop Obama’s “reform”. The neocons block everything he proposes because they hate Obama. And so many people will continue to pay for “coverage” that isn’t coverage. Why? Because that’s the way it’s always been done.

    Why won’t millions march on the White House? Laziness, cynicism. And fear (of being sacked, homeless. And dying from lack of coverage).

  21. 23 T
    March 17, 2010 at 22:29

    Another limit to protest. Under the Patriot Act, Obama has the legal right to declare martial law due to “a national emergency (which includes “other circumstances”)”). He’s never rescended this.

    Which means that if millions of people did march on the White House, he could potentially use that as an excuse. And it’s perfectly legal. Now, would he do that 8 months before the mid-term elections? Frankly, nothing would surprise me at this point.

  22. 24 steve
    March 18, 2010 at 13:02

    @ T

    You state that the “neocons” are blocking healthcare reform, becaues they hate Obama, then in your next post, you think Obama will declare martial law if there are protests in the US. So will ie be the “neocons” or “Obama” who will will be persecuting you in your view, that if you protest, you will get fired, or will you go to jail because of “martial law”? I don’t think either of your concerns are realistic, and they seem to contradict each other, as you blame one side, then say the side you basically support could declare martial law to prevent you from protesting to support healthcare reform that that president in fact supports and is pushing?

  23. 25 steve
    March 18, 2010 at 13:04

    Oh, one more thing, T, just because you have “coverage” doesn’t mean you will live forever. I know plenty of people who had insurance that are now dead and buried.

  24. March 18, 2010 at 17:28

    Protests should have a limit for humanity’s sake.

  25. 27 james Ian
    March 19, 2010 at 09:06

    WOW! that’s gross!! Hope no one has HIV or AIDS.

  26. 28 Peter Calabar
    March 19, 2010 at 13:44

    Not so long ago, I think in 2007, French youth(mostly muslim, dare I add) unleashed themselves against everything lying in their path that was combustible or in any other way destructible. They were protesting the “accidental” killing by police of some immigrants. The world watched with stunned awe as another blitzkrieg was unleashed on the French people. Cars, houses, even churches and schools were razed down by these rampaging youth. And on this blog, as I recall, not many people could see any fault in what the “protesters” were doing.

    Civilized society should always frown at protest that crosses certain limits of decency. The word is “decency”. To burn one’s self in protest of anything is NOT decent. To splash blood on the ground and intone curses on a nations leadership is coarse and unsightly. It lends itself to the numbing of a society’s sensitivities to the sight of blood and gore.

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