We've told the story before, and we'll tell it again.
More than a quarter of a million people have marched through central London to deliver a powerful message about the government's cuts in public spending. The generally good-natured mood was soured by violent and destructive attacks on symbols of wealth including the Ritz, banks and a luxury car dealer; and an occupation of the upmarket food store Fortnum and Mason.
Last night police appealed to people not involved in the disorder to leave Trafalgar Square as they came under increased bombardment from a group of protesters who said they planned to stay there all night. The protesters were throwing items such as coins and water bottles. Scotland Yard said that light bulbs filled with ammonia had also been thrown at officers earlier. But Commander Bob Broadhurst, the Scotland Yard officer in charge of policing the protests, said the TUC had done an excellent job in ensuring that the march was "very professional, very well prepared". But he said a hardcore element had been intent on making trouble.
"Unfortunately we've had in the region of 500-plus criminals--people hiding under the pretence of the TUC march who have caused considerable damage, attacked police officers, attacked police vehicles and scared the general public. Unfortunately, because of their mobility and the fact they are aware of some of our tactics, we have been unable to contain them and so we have had these groups wandering around the central London area.”
via The Guardian
Let's introduce the characters.
- A quarter-million generally good-natured folk
- A government
- The police
- 500-plus criminals
The story, of course, is that 250K folks would have been peaceably disputing the actions of their government, which the police is all to happy to grant them, but for the criminals who came and ruined the party. A seemingly logical story of course, because it sounds like those 500 did do some damage, for a purpose and effect that seems specious at best.
That is, until we realize how illogical the story itself is. These 250K are going for a good-natured stroll. That is a powerful message?
Another story about a powerful message, that took place no more that two months ago almost to the day, is the story of Egypt, and Tahrir Square. Egypt was not afforded the right to go for a good-natured stroll, and so they were forced to fight for the right to do so. Eventually the police relented, when they were supplanted by the army. Now the people were allowed to have their stroll. Everybody happy, yes?
No. The Egyptian people had had enough. They were not content at sending a "powerful message". They wanted their government to actually change, and so they said they would not stop their good-natured stroll until that happened. They set up camp, and decided to stay.
And we know what happened next. There was violence, and strolling, and violence, and solidarity. They held together, and they got their change.
The 250K who are only interested in sending a "power message” are not in it for the change. They are in it for their conscience. The 500-plus who refused to leave when the police informed them their stroll was over? They were in it for the change. For the long haul. For the sit down, and stay until you are listened to, and not just tolerated. And they were branded criminals, not only by the police, but by the 250K strollers who condemned those unfortunate, misguided kids.
Perhaps they were criminals. Perhaps they only show up for the breaking glass, for the paint. Perhaps they like being beaten by cops… who knows. But they were the only ones willing to stay.
When they are all arrested, and the good-natured stroll is over, the government will continue to have its way. The cuts will take place, because even though there were many people willing to send a message, no one was willing to stay.
It's an old story. We'll see it again.