Throughout the last week, there have been stories about people being arrested or threatened with arrest during either aspects of national mourning for Queen Elizabeth II or events to proclaim the new king.
As I’ve written here, I suspect that in most cases where an arrest takes place that there is a little bit more to it than the person simply stood happily there with a protest banner. In fact, we know that in the case of the barrister who claimed that he was threatened with arrest by a policeman if he did wrote #NotMyKing on a blank piece of paper that his own recording of the event fails to corroborate his claim. To be honest, I’d be a little worried about having such a lawyer represent me in court!
It is worth those who protest at such events asking the question “what are my objectives here?” In other words, they need a clearer idea not just about what they are protesting about and even why but the outcome they are looking for and particularly the target of their protest. Who exactly do they hope to see and hear them. You see, the main target of the protests and the main people who in effect are caused to suffer are not the supposed establishment figures. It’s unlikely that members of the royal family will see a stray banner as they pass. Rather, it’s mainly the people who are around you who have their own plans disrupted and affected. It’s long been my view that the ordinary working classes suffer the most from disruptive behaviour, they also don’t tend to have the time for such activities. Revolutionary protest is very much a middle-class past time!
Now, this does not mean that people shouldn’t be allowed to protest. I agree with those who have argued that just because something is unseemly, offensive, annoying even doesn’t necessarily mean that it is illegal. It’s lacking in decorum and basic human decency to hold up a protest banner at a funeral but that doesn’t mean we should bar people from doing it. Indeed, protesting in those ways is probably more likely to hinder your cause than help it.
However, I would suggest too that the protestors have got exactly what they wanted in other ways. You see, it’s ironic that those most bemoaning a loss of free speech have been given so much publicity and airtime by the media including appearances on prime time TV slots. I suspect that their visibility on TV has been disproportionate to their actual numbers. But that’s kind of the point of protesting. In fact, I’d suggest that protesting through marches, strikes etc is what you do when you are prevented from having your message heard through normal democratic means.
So, just as the protestors themselves might want to consider their timing, those who disagree with them might want to think through whether reacting to them is wisest. As I’ve explained elsewhere, the police may have been left with no option in some cases but to arrest but generally I can see the case for simply not paying any attention to them and not giving them the publicity they crave.