Editorial – Michaelmas 2009, Issue 4

26 October 2009

Covering the law faculty protests last year raised questions surrounding the issue of legitimate protest. As valid as the issues they discussed were, and as important their bringing them to student attention, the repercussions created a different debate – a debate which, perhaps, did more bad than good to their cause.

I agree with those who argue that, in many respects, we are too politically and socially complacent, and agree that debate is to be encouraged. But when the discussion is not about the issue, but about the protest, I begin to disagree.

Having watched the triumphant passage of soup past a scowling guard and through the rotating doors of the faculty, and following the attention such incidents received, it appeared increasingly that the issue was not the plight of the people in Gaza, but, instead, the principle of protest.

As with our front page story this week, it cannot be assumed either that protest in such forms is always wrong, but nor is it necessarily right. The overly aggressive conduct of police at the G20 protests is an example of bloated authority, and its dramatic, largely unwarranted consequences. Yet, to ignore the dilemma authorities faced when confronting such a protest is to overlook a large part of the debate such protests appear to set out to provoke.

I am not against such debate. Indeed, it is largely a useful one. Yet, what I do feel to be dishonest, are the claims of some protesters that discussion of legitimacy of protest is not one aspect of their aims in voicing their opinions in such a forum and using such methods as trespass and occupation.

A friend of mine from school was one of those students taking part in the longer Manchester Gaza solidarity occupation, and catalogued his experience with photos online. I understand, and believe, that he feels passionately about the explicit cause of the protest, and yet, by choosing to voice this opinion as he did, I feel, in part, that he detracted from his own cause. I would not view myself as shy of debate and discussion. But I am unconvinced that provocation is always the best way to achieve this.