Monday, 11 May 2015

London Protests // Has The Point Gone Unnoticed?

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On Saturday night, hundreds protested the election of the Conservatives as Britain's governing power, in what the media referred to (briefly) as an 'anti-austerity" protest - although many of the signs I saw said "get the Tories out!" and had nothing to do with austerity. Either way, it soon turned sour, with teargas being sprayed over the rioters, and a war memorial being defaced. It probably wasn't the best day for it either - on the commemoration of VE-Day, for God's sake! It did nothing for their cause, and invalidated the message of the peaceful because of the actions of a select few. Obviously vandalising a war memorial is shocking, abhorrent, and not to be condoned; but so is burning £50 in front of a homeless man, in my view.

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On the other hand, what rattled people at home was the alleged media blackout. As the protest was an unorganised one, the BBC said they refused to cover it because the police did not want more people turning up. But was that really the case? After all, the event was trending on Twitter, along with the hashtag #ToriesOutNow. If you were on social media that night, you heard about it. People would be turning up anyway. And it's not as if we can all afford just to pop down on a train to London! If that was possible, I'd more than likely have been there myself. The media need to understand that if people are suffering, they need to cover it, whatever their responsibilities are to the Establishment.

To many, the protest has been perceived as "the losing side throwing their toys out of the pram" because their party wasn't elected. Really, these people weren't angry about the fact that they'd "lost". Some of them might be annoyed (though 'annoyed' probably isn't a strong enough word) that 63% voted for parties other than Conservative, yet the Conservatives got into power. Some of them might even be scared for their futures, with the prospect of more public service cuts, mental health cuts for children, and the bedroom tax continuing (ironically, the police probably didn't even want to be stopping the protest - they face cuts, too). To me, it seems that people recognise their health, and their way of life, isn't safe in the hands of the Tories. Yes, Labour might have done some damage to the economy, admittedly, but the Conservatives will not look after ordinary people or the NHS. Privatisation will literally mean they can profit from our illness. That's the kind of thing they're protesting against. And if you're still in any doubt about their intentions, remember that Ed Miliband's first act as Prime Minister was going to be abolishing the cruel Bedroom Tax, whereas Cameron is already in talks to bring back fox-hunting! (there's a change.org petition against that, too.) WHO DOES THAT HELP? Oh yeah, the 1% at the top! What an abuse of power. Sadly, I think they've started as they mean to go on and I can see why people are concerned.

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I've seen a lot of tweets (the majority were obviously from Tory supporters) suggesting that the protesters should just "respect democracy," but, I'm sorry, they're missing the point. 1) Protests are a vital part of a democracy, they should not be denied the right and 2) people don't feel as if their vote has mattered, to the point where they feel this isn't a democracy anymore - think of all the millions of UKIP and Green voters, who saw their parties only get one seat! (My last post explained the unfair nature of our First Past The Post system, so I won't really be covering that again in too much detail - although I will leave the link to the Proportional Representation petition here.) Plus, the freedom of thought, belief, religion, and expression is one of the many things protected by the Human Rights Act, which the Conservatives will have Michael Gove scrap. So, they'd better get their voices heard now, then!

Interestingly, if the 'non-voters' had been a political party, they would have won the election. 40% of all adults chose not to put a cross on the ballot paper - that's more than the 37% of Conservative votes. Not voting is just as much a protest as a protest itself, although activism probably does a little bit more good, in most cases. If the London protests have shown anything, it's that the Tory government is already segregating us, with more of a divide between the rich and the poor.

Meaghan x

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