McMorris: Thou doth protest too much

Protest. It’s a word that makes people cringe, and tends to force them to one side of the fence or the other. The year 2011, to date, has seen its fair share of protests, many of which have been large enough to make international headlines. From Tunisia to Lebanon and other Arab nations seeking fair democracy and freedom; from Greece to Spain and other EU Nations in serious financial crises; and now, it is London, England that is under the spotlight.

Radio, television, newspapers and even people stopping to chat on the street have used the word ‘protest’ to describe the events. But the sparks that have inspired, and in some cases ignited, the determination and passion fueling these various ‘protests’ have been dramatically different.

The protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, Syria, Yemen or Jordan saw people come together courageously to have their voices heard. In some cases, their government’s response was one of violence which in turn triggered a war, quite literally, for peace and true democracy. With their words, the protesters demanded human rights, government reform/accountability and freedom. In the face of soldiers, guns and tanks, they held their ground in peace. People who had been treated with violence, who had been judged, robbed and executed by their own government, did not demonstrate violence back; instead they demanded justice with peace.
Greece, Spain, Portugal and several other EU countries have also experienced some large-scale protests. But what fueled their drive to demonstrate? Economy.

Unemployment rates are skyrocketing and the life that many people have known is being flipped on its head, and people are quite literally losing everything. They, for the most part, have protested in peace, as a cry in desperation to the world, as the world they know is crumbling before them.

And now, there is London.

This ‘protest’ began originally as a peaceful protest against the death of Mark Duggan, 29. He was killed by police during an armed stand-off. But what began as a peaceful demonstration has quickly morphed into a mass demonstration of violence. Willful planned acts of violence and destruction.

Whether it’s one person or hundreds, it is still criminal. Setting double-decker buses, buildings and police cars ablaze with petrol bombs is a criminal offence, not a protest. The violent actions that some people have chosen to take in London have not been inspired because the world before them is crumbling nor because they have suffered under deceitful and criminal governments. These London ‘protesters’ are not trying to communicate a message that peace, justice and human rights do prevail in the end.

In fact they speak no words at all. Their actions of violence speak on their behalf, and to be frank, they are completely insulting to those who choose peaceful protest as a means to make this world a better place.

Let’s be clear. The ‘protests’ in London were riots. The ‘protesters’ in London were criminals.

Whether you believe in peaceful protests, in their effectiveness or what they actually accomplish, let’s remember what the true essence of a protest is: a group of people who peacefully come together and in a peaceful manner communicate the struggle that has bent and stretched and tested their hearts and hope. From this struggle, only true protesters use their compassion, understanding and words to express the need to make this world a more just, compassionate, bright and loving place.

Meghan McMorris
BA’10 (Anthropology)