Tag Archives: Protest


Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. It remembers victims of Holocausts, not just the one of the second world war but other genocides in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur too. As such it is a time to pause and remember man and woman’s inhumanity over the last 70 years and the victims of that. The theme of HMD this year is “The Legacy of Hope“.

For those in Durham there is a short service/ vigil at the Cathedral at 6:15pm this evening. I make special effort because whilst Pastor Niemoller’s poem, which I will quote one of the versions of below, makes reference to many of the groups who suffered there are three missing. The first are the Gypsy population. I try to remember them specifically because I know they still face particular persecution in Europe. A history of one Gypsy family has been published on the HMD website. The second group are the disabled. The other group who are not mentioned, but saw thousands die are the lesbian, gay and bisexual community. For obvious reasons I want to remember that last group particularly and give thanks to God that I live in a more humane time in the West.

However, I also want to remember those who live in countries such as Uganda where they still face servere persecution for their sexual orientation. This BBC report contains a very brief, moving interview with a Ugandan lesbian who explains her fear and the treatment she has already recieved from the police. If we are to truly have a legacy of hope we need to do all we can to ensure that countries have pressure put on them not to introduce laws which could lead to holocaust….remember in many of these situations the legal and political systems have been used to facilitate holocaust. We must never forget Hitler came to power through the ballot box. Dictators tend to take power democratically and then remove democracy.

“In Germany they first came for the Communists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Catholics,
and I didn’t speak up because I was a Protestant.

Then they came for me —
and by that time no one was left to speak up.”
By Pastor Martin Niemoller (quoted on http://www.serendipity.li/cda/niemoll.html)

A Spot of Riot, Rebellion and Bloody Insurrection

Today was a day when I engaged in a bit of bonding with Third Party. First off we put together a list of 50 festival type tunes to put together in a playlist for the day. We figured that having a festival day would be a good way to stop getting fed up with the snow. After a chilled morning, (not too chilled – we were in our flat, probably one of the few buildings in England not to have need to put the heating put on this year yet), we headed off with TOH to Gateshead for a spot of live entertainment of the festivating variety.

Riot, Rebellion and Bloody Insurrection is a musical comedy which is a collaboration between Red Ladder theatre company and Chumbawamba. The show was a political history meets panto which was wonderful. It was a delightfully irreverant show based upon a young Luddite woman. Jo Mousley was excellent in the lead role of Elsie Proud, getting a small audience to participate. As with any show like this there was a lot of wonderful modern satire mixed in with historical stuff and it was a real laugh. (Also would like to note how impressed I was with the Sage who were more than happy to swap our seats for the 8pm performace and let us go to the 4pm matinee instead). In short you don’t get much better than this, especially not for £5 a ticket which is what it was for concessions.

My only worries whilst watching the show related to the gags about the bishop being into ickle boys and the cheering when the capitalist baddies got murdered and hung. I just can’t seem to find jokes based around abuse funny. In terms of the hanging particularly I figure that it is just a short step from wanting to hang the baddies to being ready to becoming one of the flog ’em and hang ’em brigade, (it’s just the ’em differ). Probably thinking too deeply about what I do and don’t feel comfortable with when I watch that type of thing, but hey…..participation in a crowd without thinking and just giving the expected responses can be one of the most dangerous things known to man.

Amongst the songs there was a v.g. subversion of Time Bomb

Mini-break, not the Bridget Jones sort

TOH and I have been off for a 21st century Christian mini break. That is to say on Friday afternoon we boarded a coach and headed off first to a Premier Inn in Stevenage and then onto London for a spot of protesting with a coachload of thoroughly nice, mainly Christian, people of different ages, (youngest about 5 and oldest….well she was well into her 80’s I’d say). The diversity of group in terms of age and class and the commitment of people in the North East to travel 5 or 6 hours down to London to protest about something they believed in was actually quite moving in this age of cynicism.

All I have to say about the hotel is I can thoroughly recommend. Not only does it have an ice-cream machine the staff were really lovely and helpful.

In the morning we headed off to London, most of the rest of the coach headed off to a service at Westminster Central Hall. We popped in to go to the loo and pick up a placard and then, after coverting a statue of Wesley – and pointing out he died an Anglican, TOH led me off to the South Bank for a wander. One has to understand this was a highly romantic act; TOH has listened to me on various occassions over the last year or so lament about how much I missed being able to pop up to the South Bank and go into the Tate Modern when I needed to spend a day clearing my head. She therefore decided that we would go for a wander rather than listening to various distinguished peeps.

Chatting I discovered she’d never done The London Eye, and as the queue was short and the day clear I said why didn’t we go on. All well and good ordianarily; not it seems when you are carrying around a Cafod placard, even if it is tucked under your arm. We went to buy the tickets and got thrown out of the hall by a security guard. Now I was being sensible, the placard was tucked under my arm, but alas apparently I couldn’t even go in the booking hall with it.

After getting kicked out we just wandered along to the Tate Modern, where placards are welcomed. Time was limited and so we headed straight off to the Pop Life exhibition. This is one of the few exhibitions that has left me with a bitter taste in my mouth, aswell as a sense of awe. The exhibition contains some amazing stuff by Wahol and Emin amongst others. It also contains out and out porn in room 9. The blurb describes Jeff Koons work in the following way. “The artist’s Made In Heaven remains a watershed moment in the interaction between the art world and celebrity culture.” It is not an exploration of the relationship between art and celebrity culture, much of it is pure porn. To be fair there is a quite good plastic sculpture in the middle of the room of a couple making love which was art, but the pictures were pornography. Fact is porn destroys relationships, self-respect and self-esteem by getting people to buy into unrealistic ideas about sex, power and bodies. The link has been shown to exist between porn and sexual violence in the home and elsewhere. Good art should be cutting edge, but it should also take responsibility for the messages being sent out. Emin has produced some excellent explicit images in her time, their power being that they show the way sex is used as a weapon against women. Her blanket was probably the most moving bit of the exhibition.

Anyway after the exhibition we headed off to Picadilly Circus to intercept the march. It was great, we walked straight in to a bunch of friends who had graduated and left Durham in the summer. A very uneventful walk around London with our placards. A very nice real police man who had had his face painted with blue dots on his cheeks even lifted me down from a wall when I needed to get down. This was soooo fluffy even the SWP didn’t join us in great numbers. They just stood at the side at various points selling the paper, not even approaching people to see if you wanted to buy a copy. In fact the only time I got to have a bit of a play, debating with the far left was outside the Tate Modern.

The journey back was largely uneventful, when we eventually managed to find the amazing old lady who had gone astray. These days you can’t get bored on a coach, just deafened as they play DVD’s to keep the kids quiet. Thankfully, I slept enough to miss Ice Age – the Melt Down. I got hooked on Enchanted and Night at the Museum though.

So all in all a v. nice mini-break for Christian Guardianistas.

Gandolf look only for the young

Apparently a middle-aged Guardianista cannot pull off the Gandolf look. Rather I am relegated to wearing an anorak or fleece. Third Party said her poncho looked a bit, well, but I could probably just about get away with it. TOH, who I will be with, made clear that it may have been blue but no way was she walking around London with me wearing it.Fun it appears has been relegated in the search for respectibility.

And then there is the planning thing. Rather than reading e-mails about wacky ideas to spice things up I have this week been reading e-mails regarding:
Wood glue for a banner
Applying for a wristband to be in the “VIP” section of the march and meet Ed Miliband
The need to wrap up warm because it will be cold
What to eat when and the need to pack plenty of sandwiches for on the coach and to get some warm food in you at breakfast time on Saturday

According to an article in The Church Times The Mothers Union is offering tea to protestors afterwards.

I swear it feels more like this weekend is going to be a cross between a scout outing and a Darby and Joan trip. Now, I’m not knocking safe, middle class, domesticated protesting. I am after all a Guardianista. Can you imagine Jesus at a protest these days? Somehow I can’t imagine him being in the “VIP” section at the front to go off and shake hands with a government minister, or actually I can, but he would have crashed it with lots of his friends….you know the crusties, anarchists, Socialist Workers and so forth. He would have been a nightmare for security and probably have been heavily criticised by the organisers for creating chaos.

Anyway see you when I’m back, I need to go and check my e-mails to ensure I’ve cut my sandwiches in the right direction 😉
Had I had forsight I would have got myself this t-shirt from Redmolotov

More than just tea and samosas

Yesterday was one of those rare days in church, or anywhere else for that matter. One of those days when you meet somebody truly inspirational who is humble and oozes integrity and has actually influenced real change rather than just talking about it. This guy was Inderjit Bhogal, who is according to his website an OBE – something not mentioned at all yesterday. I had heard he was meant to be good and so was glad the coffee rota meant I could get to hear both services he was preaching at aswell as hearing him at Methsoc in good conscience, (i.e. not feel guilty about not being off doing field work).

His main themes are inter-faith dialogue, anti-racism and sanctuary for refugees and asylum seekers. He does not talk about this in the usual middle class way which you expect, but rather talks it like it is – to the extent I was wondering if we were going to get the full f word within a quote in the morning sermon, at one point, (and I don’t mean feminism). Yet and here’s the thing in the mist of stating it like it is he shows totally humility and a deep understanding of and respect for scripture and other people. He refuses to dehumanise the other…..using a quote from a Bosnian in one of his sermons to explain when you start viewing anybody as less than human you are on the road to genocide.

This is all not just a good show of humility from a seasoned performer. This is the real deal. It’s a lifestyle thing. I happened to be on the coffee rota this week and so was in the kitchen washing up when he came in to chat to those of us in the kitchen and give a hand with the drying up. I also had a bit of an embarrassing moment at Methsoc when he started flogging his book with a student discount. I’d bought it full price off him in the morning and so started mumbling about the fact I would have waited if I’d known I could get it cheaper in the evening. He turned round, checked he’d heard my mumbling right and then reached in his pocket and gave me the difference – so I got my student discount. There were other things I observed which showed this bloke was the genuine article rather than a performer. He is a good old fashioned activist, who also happens to be a minister, chair of all sorts of commitees, OBE and former president of the Methodist Conference.

In terms of significant stuff this bloke has been involved in starting up the most important I guess is the City of Sanctuary movement, which has grown out of Sheffield. This is about getting places to commit to being places of safety, welcome and inclusion for refugees and asylum seekers.

There is a very good You Tube film where Inderjit and others explain what City of Sanctuary is about

A Fluffy Guide to Family Friendly Protest Tourism- Part 1

The rather camp teddybear on my bookshelf, leaning on the Guiness stress pint, has a white band around it’s neck proclaiming “Make Poverty History Edinburgh 2 July 2005”, it’s jacket has a retro CND badge on one side saying “Well-Meaning Guardian Readers Against the Bomb”, on the other side are pinned “Not in my Name” and “Love Music Hate Racism” badges together with a rainbow ribbon. Each of these badges has a memory connected with it. The majority of these memories involve Third Party aswell as myself, and take my mind back to the problems involved in trying to keep your placard but take advantage of the fact the National Gallery Sainsbury Wing toilets are the best enroute for most demonstrations and the best ways to fit in a detour up to Hamley’s if you are going for a wander between the Embankment and Hyde Park. They also take me back to memories of how to best indulge in a spot of celebrity spotting with a small child.

All good things come to an end though and in a few weeks I go on my first major family friendly demo without Third Party for a very long time. The Wave is going to be far more Saga in style than previous jaunts. Yes, that means TOH and myself have decided to turn it into a mini-break, taking the overnight option.

Anyway I have decided that based upon my fairly extensive experience of combining protest with leisure and pleasure, and using it as a way to create family memories, I would do a short series. My fluffy guide to family friendly protest tourism.

The lesson today is choose your protest carefully
Some events have the potential to be less child friendly than others. The first thing to consider is what type of policing tactics The Met or whoever are likely to employ.
If the literature promoting an action includes words like “occupation” or “carnival of resistence” it is not going to be something you want to turn into a family day out. The police will be likely to change into their starwars outfits and have a bit of the ruck with Class War, SWP, brew crew and a few poor passers by stuck in the middle at some point. This will quite probably occur after you have been penned into an enclosed area without toilets for a while. Anti-fascist events intended to “force the fascists off our streets” are also not places for children, particularly as at these events you have the added danger of right wing extremists aswell as the police to deal with. (Note that is not to say that you cannot go and do a spot of protest tourism at these places, but it does mean you SHOULD NOT take children with you).

Good events to look out for are ones which are organised by a coalition of recognised NGO’s or end up in a large park where popular musicians will be performing. If you see flyers for an event in your local church, synagogue or mosque you can almost guarentee that it will be child friendly…..as “child friendly” often also equates to “socially concerned Christian friendly”. Also look out for annual events such as the CND Easter demonstrations; multi generational days out with a number of pensioners in attendance.

Local demos also tend to be very family friendly and are a good way to network / make friends with some interesting community activists in your area.