Reactions to protests

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Bird on a Fire
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Reactions to protests

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sun Mar 21, 2021 3:52 am

I'm struggling a little to understand something. (Nothing new there)

Last summer, there were a bunch of protests over police maltreatment of minority groups. People, both here and in the press, were lining up to call the protesters fuckwits, morons, selfish, stupid, performative, etc., along with comments like "I hope they voted in the recent parliamentary elections."

More recently, there have been similar protests for similar reasons, that have received a dissimilar response.

I'm not quite sure why. Obviously there will be many factors. Some putative contributors I've come up with, of varying degrees of provocativeness, are
- the pandemic is nearly over so people don't care any more
- white women are more sympathetic than black men
- country where the murder took place
- it's conceptually easier to be outraged by the actions of a single individual cop than an entire system
- most people either are or know women, so understanding of the issues at stake is greater than those that affect only minorities
- women's groups have done a better job of PR

But none of those feel satisfactory.

I'm genuinely pleased at the reception and conversation around the recent demonstrations and feel that progress is being made, albeit way slower than I'd like. This post isn't in any way meant to denigrate those involved or affected. But I would be interested in exploring what's going on here.

What do folk think? I'd like to kick off by appealing to people to be thoughtful and generous in their responses.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by lpm » Sun Mar 21, 2021 7:56 am

You have forgotten reality.

At the time of the BLM protests - end May to mid June 2020 - we had no knowledge that outside activities were so safe. The expectation of experts was that close proximity in outside crowds without 2m distancing was likely to cause superspreading events.

Re-read the protest during a pandemic thread and you'll see you yourself expected this risk.

It was these protests and the lack of subsequent outbreaks that gave us the knowledge that outdòors was safe. It was a major real world experiment. Directly led to the new strategy for the autumn of "rule of 6" outdoors. We now know meeting in a park to protest is very low risk.

You've wasted loads of waffle in your post because in your early hours rambling you forgot a basic fact.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by mediocrity511 » Sun Mar 21, 2021 8:41 am

Maybe the people who would be criticising the protests are too busy screaming "not all men"?!

With BLM I can remember lots of discussion about the rights and wrongs of the protests, but less about the cause. With Reclaim These Streets* there's more taking the cause as personally attacking them, lots of saying that men have I just as bad, some denying there's even an issue.


*As an aside, can anyone remember the Reclaim The Streets movement that was all about blocking roads and holding a massive party? XR have a few echoes of those tactics, but takemthemselves a bit more seriously.

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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by snoozeofreason » Sun Mar 21, 2021 9:25 am

I still wear a mask outdoors, and also practice social distancing outdoors whenever I can, although I seem to be in a small minority. So I am not going on a demo in physical space any time soon. It's true that demonstrations haven't been linked to superspreader events and haven't produced a visible spike in infection data, and common sense suggests that they are safer than indoor events, but this isn't the same as saying they are safe. A spike would have to be quite big to be detectable, and protestors don't normally leave their names and addresses when they go on demos, so contact tracing is even more difficult than usual. Outdoor events whose participants are known - such as Trump's September Rose Garden meeting - have been plausibly connected to spread of the virus.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:40 pm

lpm wrote:
Sun Mar 21, 2021 7:56 am
You have forgotten reality.

At the time of the BLM protests - end May to mid June 2020 - we had no knowledge that outside activities were so safe. The expectation of experts was that close proximity in outside crowds without 2m distancing was likely to cause superspreading events.

Re-read the protest during a pandemic thread and you'll see you yourself expected this risk.

It was these protests and the lack of subsequent outbreaks that gave us the knowledge that outdòors was safe. It was a major real world experiment. Directly led to the new strategy for the autumn of "rule of 6" outdoors. We now know meeting in a park to protest is very low risk.

You've wasted loads of waffle in your post because in your early hours rambling you forgot a basic fact.
I mean, I was kind of taking it as read that our understanding of covid transmission has advanced somewhat in the last ~9 months. However, I'm not sure I buy your assumption that people's responses to these things are 100% driven by scientific evidence.

Taking a few tentative steps out of the shallow end of the intellectual pool, we might expect to find that people's behaviour is sometimes quite complex, multifaceted even. I've even heard that people sometimes have unconscious biases around certain issues. Maybe some of those factors could also be in play, alongside the doubtless fundamental importance of epidemiological understanding.

For example, there were a lot of comments about "I hope all those protestors are registered to vote" (in the US) and "I hope all those protestors voted last December" (in the UK). I haven't seen similar comments this time around, and I don't think viral transmission cuts the mustard as an explanation. It could just be because the election is even further in the past, and therefore even more irrelevant. But it could also be because people recognise that there isn't really a "fix-systemic-misogyny" party, or because people don't make the same assumptions about which groups of society vote. Or some combination of the above.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:41 pm

It is sweet of you to worry about waffle wastage though, thanks. However, I've just checked the waffle reserves in my storage tanks, and I'm relieved to report that I've still got waffle for days. Nobody has to read it, of course.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by Bird on a Fire » Sun Mar 21, 2021 4:48 pm

mediocrity511 wrote:
Sun Mar 21, 2021 8:41 am
Maybe the people who would be criticising the protests are too busy screaming "not all men"?!

With BLM I can remember lots of discussion about the rights and wrongs of the protests, but less about the cause. With Reclaim These Streets* there's more taking the cause as personally attacking them, lots of saying that men have I just as bad, some denying there's even an issue.


*As an aside, can anyone remember the Reclaim The Streets movement that was all about blocking roads and holding a massive party? XR have a few echoes of those tactics, but takemthemselves a bit more seriously.
There could well be an element of that, yes. Plus, as lpm says, we know enough now about how spreading occurs that the pandemic is no longer a convenient talking point for people who feel threatened by the issues being raised.

That said, I do also recall that there were a lot of people getting very indignant about the idea that the UK might have a racism problem as bad as that in the US (its incarceration rate for black people is worse, for example). Here in Portugal there was even a "Portugal isn't racist" counter-protest, though of course only white people turned up which kind of undermined the point. Whereas nobody really seems to deny that systemic sexism still exists, they just want to go on about how it isn't them doing it.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by Gfamily » Sun Mar 21, 2021 5:14 pm

The last couple of times we've been in Alexandra Park in Manchester, there's been a group drumming and chanting by the lake. Very much keeping themselves to themselves, and not obstructing anyone.

Today the police seemed to have decided that 'something needed to be done' so a group of about 20 or 30 officers came down and send to have done an excellent job of pissing off the general public.

At one point they said were saying that they were closing the park, but they totally failed to manage anything like that, so it very much sounded as though they were totally out of their depth.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by discovolante » Sun Mar 21, 2021 6:00 pm

Hm, I think lpm has a point that the fact that we knew a lot less about covid transmission last year than this year is relevant.

On the other hand though, more generally, whenever there's an issue relating to the treatment/rights of minority groups, there is always *some reason* to criticise them, or to justify the treatment towards them. It happens every single time and it chips away and perpetually undermines understanding of the real issue. I think this is to do with the way the powers that be in a society treat minority and marginalised groups right across the board. Anyone who has had any experience of claiming benefits, or whose immigration status has been precarious, etc, understands that not only their right to exist is fundamentally conditional but that right down to individual decision making, there is no room for error, no space to be human and make mistakes or to have the occasional lapse in judgement, or to reveal the slightest inconsistency in any way you present yourself. So this pattern of conditionality - you get to have these rights but only if you behave in a certain way, look a certain way, express your views a certain way - permeates every aspect of state control over some people's lives, whether it's exercising the right to protest, being arrested on suspicion of committing a crime, or just trying to get a bit of paper to say that you're allowed to have a little bit of money from the government each week, or stay in the country, or work.

I think, and I may be wrong, that day to day we are getting a bit better at tackling 'victim blaming' when it comes to sexual harassment and assault, compared to other issues, and we are far, far from perfect, but even then it's fairly narrowly defined e.g. the white woman walking home from a night out in a short skirt. Sometimes it's OK for her to be drunk too.

On the other hand, Extinction Rebellion I think are generally viewed (probably not inaccurately, and I think they are now aware of this) as a bunch of silly middle class white people who don't need to worry about being arrested or fear the police, and they still drew plenty of criticism from the general public including people who supposedly care about climate issues. But by and large they got to sit in the middle of some of the busiest roads in central London (and other places) for ages, with relatively little hassle as a result - plenty of arrests but not the level of brutality we see elsewhere. And even then, a lot of negative public opinion seemed to be along the lines of 'well yes they can try and argue their cause if they want as long as they don't get in my way and I can ignore them'. The more legitimate criticism may have been delaying ambulances etc, which is a really difficult one. However, as far as I can see, they pretty much achieved their goal as a result of that first big protest, and the aim ultimately is to protect people including those living thousands of miles away who are suffering horrendous floods and draughts, and death and illness. So where am I going with this...good question...I think it comes back to an instinctive deference to authority and maintaining the social order, and being able to see the immediate impact of a disruptive protest but not the bigger picture, just as people see that *that* particular person who was shot by the police may have done something to warrant it, like reach into their glove compartment or whatever. I think that people are generally quite ready to criticise individually poor decisions and actions by authorities (Clapham Common for instance) but not look wider than that, which is a bit inconsistent with attitudes towards minorities and marginalised people. And that while there are clear benefits of having social norms and expectations, and some system in place to deal with digression from those norms (I would want to be protected by emergency services if I was being burgled or attacked, for example, and at the same time I would not want to be the poorly paid person who gets called out to arrest an aggressive mugger, or deal with a child sexual abuser, and so on), we get so used to them that we're not that great at spotting when they are starting to do more harm than good. And with that comes the suspicion and over the top criticism of 'outsider' groups because we can't recognise that the reason they are angry, when they show their anger, is because they are forced to operate on the fringes of what's considered to be 'productive society' and are simultaneously punished for doing so.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by snoozeofreason » Mon Mar 22, 2021 8:27 am

It is interesting that restrictions on expression in physical space provoke different reactions to restrictions on use of the internet. When someone gets banned from Twitter the response here is mainly along the lines of "Meh, there are other ways in which they can express their opinion," (sometimes with a side order of "Meh, Twitter's a private company anyway, which I think is a rather dangerous argument). If the bannee claims to have been "banned from the public square," we point out that Twitter isn't "The public square." That probably sums up much of the reaction to Twitter bans outside our forum as well, and it's not completely unreasonable. But freedom of expression is a matter of degree rather than something we either have or don't have, and Twitter accounts for a sufficiently significant proportion of the traffic in opinions that banning people from it can't simply be dismissed as irrelevant to the issue. And, of course, the existence of Twitter and other platforms mean that the public square isn't really "The public square" either.

I'd guess that one reason why we cherish our right to protest in physical space is that it is disruptive. Things said on Twitter will not directly stop people from getting in to work, or require the commitment of significant police resources, or hold up ambulances, so they are easier to ignore. The reasons why politicians want to control expression in physical space probably overlap with the reasons why we shouldn't let them.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by FlammableFlower » Mon Mar 22, 2021 11:59 am

So... Bristol...

That went well...

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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by discovolante » Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:33 pm

FlammableFlower wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 11:59 am
So... Bristol...

That went well...
What do you think about it all, in the context of this thread, the proposed bill, the reaction to Clapham Common etc?
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by Bewildered » Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:54 pm

Sorry I only quickly skimmed some of the longer posts, so apologies if this was already mentioned, but beyond some change in what we know about the risk (I am not sure how big that it is), I thought the difference was for the BLM protest the police didn’t jump in and violently quash it / drag people away. Whereas the police did with this vigil about violence against women. So in the former we were left to discuss the BLM protest itself, while in the latter we discussed the police and what they did. At least for me that difference was explicitly in mind when I saw the the news about the vigil and why I didn’t make a post saying we should react the same way.

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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by FlammableFlower » Mon Mar 22, 2021 1:32 pm

discovolante wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 12:33 pm
FlammableFlower wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 11:59 am
So... Bristol...

That went well...
What do you think about it all, in the context of this thread, the proposed bill, the reaction to Clapham Common etc?
One of the problems I've seen - from more right-wing types (in the running club) on Facebook is that it feeds a storyline whereby left-wing crusties are undermining Britishness and law and order in general and goes to promote support of the reduction in the right to protest. Essentially that behaviour entrenches mindsets on either side.

Couple of son's friends were down there earlier in the day to support the protest but left prior to things kicking off in the evening.

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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by Fishnut » Mon Mar 22, 2021 2:31 pm

I considered going to the protest yesterday but decided against it because I would be having to travel in to do so and I didn't want people breaking lockdown to be the story - there's enough people living within walking distance to be able to make a sizeable protest without me travelling from out of town. I didn't expect violence to become the story and was really frustrated to see that's what's happened. It was really well attended and peaceful during the day.

That said, while there's clearly protestors who turned violent - there was at least one person letting off fireworks in the crowd which aren't the actions of someone who's trying to keep things calm - there's also evidence of the police overreacting. See here and here for examples of police attacking protestors. Of course, it's difficult to to know whether the police were provoked in these instances or were acting provocatively themselves, but bringing in dogs and horses, particularly in narrow streets, doesn't seem like the best plan. It's a particular shame because Avon & Somerset Police handled the BLM protests so well, and made it clear they weren't going to intervene and escalate the situation, and really were an example to forces around the country on how to handle protests during a pandemic. They responded proportionately to the Sarah Everard vigils too, so I do suspect that they were provoked in this one. That said, this tweet suggests that they had orders to proactively intervene which may have escalated things, either intentionally or not. At the peak of the violence the crowd had encircled the police station and were setting vehicles on fire and attacking the building which clearly needed a response, though it's important to recognise that not all the people there even at that stage had violent intentions, and there were protestors trying to get people to stop.

I do think the government is taking cynical advantage of the pandemic to push this bill through. I wrote to my Conservative MP about the bill and his response was all about the need to curtail protest and people gathering due to the pandemic, which I hadn't mentioned at all. He seemed to see it (whether intentionally or as a way of fobbing me off) as a temporary measure necessary on public health grounds, rather than a piece of legislation that will be with us for decades.

If anything, the protest in Bristol showed that the police already have the legal powers they need to deal with protests. The police had the power to intervene when things got disruptive, they were able to arrest people when they broke the law. There is no need to increase their powers and if they do then why would people bother with peaceful protest over violent protest when they'll be treated as criminals either way?
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by discovolante » Mon Mar 22, 2021 2:54 pm

Fishnut has already responded much more thoroughly than I could have done, and has also linked to a couple of videos that I was going to link to, so I'm going to take much less time on this than I woud have done otherwise :P (get your excuses in early, disco!).

As Fishnut has pointed out, there are at least some recorded instances of the police acting in a way that seems to be disproportionate. There were also a bunch of idiots who thought it was a good idea to chuck fireworks into the crowd etc, who may or may not have even been involved in the protests earlier. I don't really think most people think that lobbing fireworks is a good idea, and I'm not keen on arson either, personally. I really wish it hadn't happened. But the examples of the police conduct have so far all come from social media, as far as I can see. I've also read a couple of unverified comments elsewhere about what the police were up to, but nothing on mainstream news sites. The news is reporting it very much from the police perspective, even where it's framed as 'a few violent thugs came in and ruined a peaceful protest that was otherwise handled brilliantly by all involved'. So far at least, there isn't really any proper coverage of what Fishnut has referred to, other than from unofficial sources that can't be verified (which doesn't say anything about whether they're true or not, just that this is what we are working with), and the odd shaky recording.

So obviously anti-protest people and the government pounce on this and say 'ah ha! This is exactly why we need to create new laws to stop things happening that have absolutely nothing to do with what happened yesterday!', people who just hate the police say 'well what do you expect, we're going to have to get violent if you won't give us what we want', and people who think the right to peaceful protest is generally a good thing but don't really like violence get all panicky about the impression that's being made. Or otherwise just kind of sit on the fence and talk about what other people seem to think about it. But you can't really stop dickheads being dickheads. However it is possible to take a bit of time to look at other sources of information than just the mainstream news, and question that, without going all ACAB or 'both sides-ing' it.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by Fishnut » Mon Mar 22, 2021 3:09 pm

discovolante wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 2:54 pm
But the examples of the police conduct have so far all come from social media, as far as I can see. I've also read a couple of unverified comments elsewhere about what the police were up to, but nothing on mainstream news sites. The news is reporting it very much from the police perspective, even where it's framed as 'a few violent thugs came in and ruined a peaceful protest that was otherwise handled brilliantly by all involved'.
I wanted to highlight this because I think it's a really important point. The newspapers and broadcasters have been repeating the police press releases without any scrutiny or fact-checking. Admittedly, they can't go to the protest organisers for comment because there explicitly wasn't any, but that doesn't mean to say they have no way of ensuring the veracity of the police's claims. I believe the lack of organisers was as a precaution against potential fines like those threatened to the organisers of the cancelled Sarah Everard vigil. But that in itself should be worthy of comment and discussion. Does threatening organisers with fines stop unsafe protests or simply make them more likely as a lack of organisers means lack of ground rules and internal oversight?
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by monkey » Mon Mar 22, 2021 3:25 pm

Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said, among other things:
Experience would suggest that there are a group of people running around the country looking for any opportunity to enter into physical conflict with the police or representatives of what they see as the establishment, whether it’s the bill, whether it’s some other protest, they’ll take the opportunity.
This was many a Republican's response to the BLM protests last year in the USA. Spreading the lie that Antifa were travelling round the country to cause trouble did nothing to calm things down. I suppose this might have happened in Bristol, but as far as I can tell the claim is unevidenced.

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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Mar 22, 2021 4:17 pm

It is seriously damaging when people turn up to peaceful protests and do stupid things like launching fireworks or initiating violence with the police.

Of course, all those things are already illegal, and there are already restrictions on public assembly during the pandemic, so none of that is any justification for the provisions of the bill to restrict protest generally.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by Woodchopper » Mon Mar 22, 2021 4:39 pm

monkey wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 3:25 pm
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said, among other things:
Experience would suggest that there are a group of people running around the country looking for any opportunity to enter into physical conflict with the police or representatives of what they see as the establishment, whether it’s the bill, whether it’s some other protest, they’ll take the opportunity.
This was many a Republican's response to the BLM protests last year in the USA. Spreading the lie that Antifa were travelling round the country to cause trouble did nothing to calm things down.
That was also some Mail columnists' take on the Clapham common vigil for Sarah Everard.

Another example of how people should be debating policy but end up debating reality instead.

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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Mar 22, 2021 4:50 pm

Woodchopper wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 4:39 pm
monkey wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 3:25 pm
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said, among other things:
Experience would suggest that there are a group of people running around the country looking for any opportunity to enter into physical conflict with the police or representatives of what they see as the establishment, whether it’s the bill, whether it’s some other protest, they’ll take the opportunity.
This was many a Republican's response to the BLM protests last year in the USA. Spreading the lie that Antifa were travelling round the country to cause trouble did nothing to calm things down.
That was also some Mail columnists' take on the Clapham common vigil for Sarah Everard.

Another example of how people should be debating policy but end up debating reality instead.
I think it's quite clearly a deliberate strategy, and can't help but think the best way to deal with it is not to engage.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by mediocrity511 » Mon Mar 22, 2021 4:57 pm

monkey wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 3:25 pm
Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol said, among other things:
Experience would suggest that there are a group of people running around the country looking for any opportunity to enter into physical conflict with the police or representatives of what they see as the establishment, whether it’s the bill, whether it’s some other protest, they’ll take the opportunity.
This was many a Republican's response to the BLM protests last year in the USA. Spreading the lie that Antifa were travelling round the country to cause trouble did nothing to calm things down. I suppose this might have happened in Bristol, but as far as I can tell the claim is unevidenced.
It seems a bit speculative of Marvin Rees to suggest these people weren't Bristolians and instead were shipped in. Bristol is well known for having a fairly radical segment of the community, so it wouldn't be surprising if the vast majority of protesters , peaceful and not, were local.

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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by Gfamily » Mon Mar 22, 2021 5:39 pm

Gfamily wrote:
Sun Mar 21, 2021 5:14 pm
The last couple of times we've been in Alexandra Park in Manchester, there's been a group drumming and chanting by the lake. Very much keeping themselves to themselves, and not obstructing anyone.

Today the police seemed to have decided that 'something needed to be done' so a group of about 20 or 30 officers came down and send to have done an excellent job of pissing off the general public.

At one point they said were saying that they were closing the park, but they totally failed to manage anything like that, so it very much sounded as though they were totally out of their depth.
MEN news report

It's very minor, but for people who were not immediately involved, it was the Police presence that "alarmed members of the public".

So although "officers were met with threats and abuse and shown blatant disrespect as they tried to constructively explain to the individuals the impact of their actions", members of the public were also threatened by the Police "... I've asked you to move on and I can issue you with a FPN for £200 for breach of Coronavirus regulations" and shown blatant disrespect if they tried to engage constructively.
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by JQH » Mon Mar 22, 2021 7:02 pm

Fishnut wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 3:09 pm
discovolante wrote:
Mon Mar 22, 2021 2:54 pm
But the examples of the police conduct have so far all come from social media, as far as I can see. I've also read a couple of unverified comments elsewhere about what the police were up to, but nothing on mainstream news sites. The news is reporting it very much from the police perspective, even where it's framed as 'a few violent thugs came in and ruined a peaceful protest that was otherwise handled brilliantly by all involved'.
I wanted to highlight this because I think it's a really important point. The newspapers and broadcasters have been repeating the police press releases without any scrutiny or fact-checking. Admittedly, they can't go to the protest organisers for comment because there explicitly wasn't any, but that doesn't mean to say they have no way of ensuring the veracity of the police's claims. I believe the lack of organisers was as a precaution against potential fines like those threatened to the organisers of the cancelled Sarah Everard vigil. But that in itself should be worthy of comment and discussion. Does threatening organisers with fines stop unsafe protests or simply make them more likely as a lack of organisers means lack of ground rules and internal oversight?
Obviously I can't comment on the Bristol protest as I wasn't there but I have previous experience of being at demos reported as "riots", "thuggery" etc in the media but which I know from having been there that the police started the aggro. Admittedly it was the Met, who are more violent than provincial forces.
And remember that if you botch the exit, the carnival of reaction may be coming to a town near you.

Fintan O'Toole

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lpm
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Re: Reactions to protests

Post by lpm » Mon Mar 22, 2021 9:50 pm

Er... they called the demo Kill the Bill.

Give it that name and you're basically declaring it an ACAB event where rioters are welcome.
What ever happened to that Trump guy, you know, the one who was president for a bit?

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