(04) How to protest, and win the support of the public?

What is going on at this moment?
Tomorrow, Belgium unions will organise a demonstration against the decisions taken by the almost new government. Earlier this week, there was a massive strike from public workers in the UK and many people came on the streets, quite unusable for the UK.

These people protest against the many changes affecting every ones lives. E.g. the age of retirement in the UK increases from 60 till 66 (while many claim at the same time pensioners' income will go down). Of course, this is a gigantic step and those who could nearly retire don't want to work an extra six years. But the main problem is that, although we knew the average age of the people increases, politicians never dared to make the necessary reforms earlier and introduce them gradually so everyone could adjust to the changing system. Now, the changes are too big. I always thought of retiring at 70. One of the reasons why politicians didn't dare to modernise the pension was because many within the unions refused to discuss it with their members. Now the politicians can finally do what is needed because they can claim it is Europe forcing them to do so (as always, if politicians don't want to take the decisions themselves they blame Europe).

But, politicians are now going too far and making bad decisions because they listen a little bit too much to the big industries. E.g. in Belgium, tax reductions to stimulate green energy are stopped. This will damage the green industry (still a small industry that can't compete yet against the big energies such as oil companies) as many people will no longer be able to buy the more expensive green solutions. And that at a moment when everyone notice climate change is happening: droughts in some regions (e.g. Texas) while floodings in other regions (e.g. Pakistan). As a result, crops are destroyed and food prices are going up. The benefit system becomes stricter while many people loose their job and can't find a new one. And this while Europe agrees that the financial markets can continue to receive financial support from country if they have problems. Thus, the banks can continue as they did.

Respect and problem with the unions
Unions were a force for the good when people needed to organise themselves to get better working conditions, and as people suffer again unions might be the voice of the people.

But, I also have a problem with the unions and with the demonstrations they are organising. These demonstrations take place during the week when people normally work. Therefore, many parents are angry because what to do with their children when schools are closed? Further, I am not a member of a union (long ago I was a member because one needed to be a member to get benefits when unemployed. Nowadays I use an independent organisation whenever I need support), therefore I will not receive any compensation when I want to demonstrate and I have to take a day off while union members will receive some compensation for not going to work. Why can't unions organise demonstrations during weekends? Do they fear no-one will turn up when people can't get a day off? Another problem I have with unions is that you rarely hear them when someone else organises something. Why didn't the unions speak out more in support of protests by the Indignados? Is this because the Indignados are independent, therefore not contributing any money to the unions and thus power. I repeat, unions were necessary, and we still need them to make our voices heard when necessary. But the unions should also support other groups of people, and not only their own members. And unions should explain sometimes to their members certain decisions has to be taken such as an increase in the age of retirement. However, they should also talk about new ways of working because no-one can work for 60 years without some gap years.

The Independent people want to discuss future society with people from all parts of society: politicians, economists, unions, anarchists, ... to get a better society. Why did I not hear greater support from the unions for the Indignados and Occupy Wall Street movements? Are not all these people reaching for a better society? Are the unions afraid the Independents will reduce their power (implosion of the unions as might happen with the political parties and religions).

Politicians
I do not understand many politicians who claim the demonstrations might damage the recovery. Why can't they accept people sometimes need to voice their concerns? Why do so many politicians ridicules these people? Why can't they listen to the concerns and give an honest answer. Then people might listen because they will get answers. Politicians can say whatever they want, but if people start feeling it becomes difficult to buy basic things such as food and medication (especially for the elderly), then people will not thrust their politicians when they say everything is fine. And certainly when the politicians don't stop the financial system continue working as before.

So, what is important to win the support of the public?
It is very important that these demonstrations are non violent. Until now, the new movements behave very well and this against the hopes of the "establishments" who think these ordinary people can't behave civilised. Indeed, in an American town, students were sitting peacefully on a square while the police used peperspray. As a result, many people condemned the police and two officers are placed on non-active. In London, the protesters around Saint-Paul's Cathedral won the battle against the Dean and he even had to resign because the Dean threatened to use force against peaceful protesters, therefore it seemed the Church was defending money and not ordinary people. In Egypt, people on the Tahrir Square protested peacefully and after external force used violence against these demonstrators, President Mubarak had to resign. (During the new demonstrations, I heard the atmosphere is not as good and thus the establishment might have to use force to avoid violence).

These Independents know they should continue their demonstrations in a peaceful way. As a result, those who would like to see an end to these demonstrations are powerless unless they are prepared to accept responsibility for aggression (and some might accept responsibility to ask police to remove the demonstrators. E.g. Jeremy Clarkson would not mind protesters being shot in front of their family and he asked himself how these protesters dare to demonstrate when they have a pension while others have to work to get money). My problem with unions is that I find it often a little too aggressive. Thus, one day there might be a confrontation. E.g. the City of London is still debating whether or not they will ask the court to remove the protesters, when necessary with violence. And some extreme right groups are planning to interrupt the demonstrations and hope violence will break out; that will be a good moment for the police to intervene. Those who prefer to stop the protests might try to blame all protesters (saying that if the protesters where not there extreme right would not have started the violence) and introduce laws against demonstrations. And as the public does not want troubles might agree with stricter laws against the demonstrations.

What to do in those circumstances?
When the City might ask to Court to ban the protests in the City, the protesters should obey and leave. Doing so, they show they obey the law. They know one day the Court might decide they can't stay any longer. Thus, they should think about their next step. But, they should never try to seek the confrontation unless in self-defence, and then the public will support them and condemn the aggressors.


When violence is used, the demonstrators should try to stay calm although this will not be easy. I remember PM Gordon Brown saying during the first financial downfall that he would not allow thugs to destroy his G20 (Mr Brown is considered an old-labour politicians so why did he not allow people to protest?). Peaceful demonstrators were restraint by police in the City of London (one outsider died of a heart attack after aggression of the police). As a result the people condemned the police for their hardline actions against peaceful demonstrators. I think this was a major contributor why PM Gordon Brown lost the elections. And as an Old-Labour politician, PM Brown should have been stronger forcing the bankers to accept their responsibilities and thus accept new rules. But I also accept Mr Brown did his best as everyone was surprised as the financial troubles started so suddenly.

Update: 18/01/2012

A judge ruled the "Occupy London" demonstrators have to leave the City of London. My advice: do leave in peace before violence erupts and find another way to demonstrate so they have to go to court again (although after a while nothing will be allowed again when the judge will always be on the side of the money). If you would continue your protest around Saint-Paul's and the police would come and threatens with aggression to remove you, then sit with your hands on your head and head bowed down. The City is full with cameras and if the police strikes, the whole world will see who started the fight and you will gain support. And the hands and arms on your head might prevent your head being hit badly.

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