Taking to the streets: why protest matters

13 Mar

shit is fucked up and stuffThis weekend, there’ll be a series of protest marches around the country known collectively as ‘March in March.’

The overall aim of the rallies is to protest against the manner in which the Abbott government is running the country. There is no single issue focus, and people are invited to peacefully state their own particular grievance/grievances against the LNP.

The protests have been organised by people who have no affiliation with any political party and indeed, little or no experience in organising protests. It sprang from increasing discontent expressed on social media by citizens who have no significant public platform through which they can vocalise dissatisfaction with and anger against the Abbott government. In every way, the March in March protest appears to be a genuine grass-roots movement, and no big names are associated with its initiation and execution.

March in March has come in for a fair amount of criticism for its alleged lack of focus and purpose.For some reason, ordinary citizens expressing grievances against their government is not regarded as being focused, or as having any purpose.

Protest itself, it’s also claimed in some quarters, is a waste of time, useful only to give participants a warm inner glow, and unlikely to achieve anything more than that.

I don’t know how the outcome of a protest is measured.  I’m fairly certain that change is usually very slow, and requires any number of ongoing actions to bring it about. I doubt anyone would argue that protest alone can achieve great things, however, it is one action among many that together can cause upheaval. As several people told me today, protest didn’t stop John Howard taking us into Iraq, however, nothing was going to stop Howard doing that, and in our parliamentary system the Prime Minister alone is permitted to make such grave decisions. What the protests did was allow citizens a unique opportunity to peacefully and publicly express their opposition, and in itself, this is something we should neither denigrate nor easily relinquish. Ordinary people without a public platform must have a voice.

While this Guardian piece criticising March in March contains much with which I agree, it entirely misses the point that this weekend of protest has sprung not from any organised political movement but from the rage of seriously offended citizens who have no other means of publicly expressing their fury. The peaceful public expression of  rage against those who govern is in itself a privilege many in different political systems do not enjoy, and we should treasure our freedom to take to the streets in protest at our governments. We may not, if conservatives have their way, have such freedoms available to us for much longer.

Hopefully, the March in March rallies will be the first in an ongoing public protest against the Abbott government that will reach its climax at the ballot box in the next election. It is a beginning. It’s an opportunity for motivated strangers to meet and engage. It’s a chance for a more finely honed focus to emerge and be developed. The grass-roots nature of these protests is thrilling. No Get-Up. No charismatic leaders. No political parties. Just citizens exercising their democratic right to peacefully dissent. Don’t knock it. Treasure it. Abbott is about to do everything he possibly can to take this freedom away.

38 Responses to “Taking to the streets: why protest matters”

  1. gerard oosterman March 13, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

    The least we can do is show our discontent and rage against what is happening.


    • Jennifer Wilson March 13, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

      Yes, I agree Gerard


    • doctorrob54 March 14, 2014 at 12:01 am #

      If that is all we can do for now it is better than doing nothing,will be marching in Lismore,cheers mate.


  2. Elisabeth March 13, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    I shared this one on Facebook. Let’s march.


    • Maria March 14, 2014 at 3:38 am #

      I’ll be there…thanks for writing this Jennifer. Has motivated me & rejuvinated my faith & confidence in the potential power of grass-roots taking to the streets. I’m excited & already feeling a sense of relief that the prick causing so much damage & suffering, to so many, is being called out & held to account by ordinary folk. Yeehaa!


  3. AsGrayAsGray March 14, 2014 at 12:02 am #

    Pressed this at my shit blog. Thanks for posting it.
    A well-crafted outline of why March In March is so necessary at this time.


  4. samjandwich March 14, 2014 at 1:24 pm #

    hanks for the heads-up Jennifer, though I must admit I find the concept of deciding what to protest against a little challenging.

    The abbott government has certainly committed a long list of crimes against humanity and common sense ever since they came into power, and it would be easy enough to list these one by one. but i’m finding it hard to think off the top of my head how to crystallise my objection to them in a few snappy sentences that will be meaningful to them.

    Perhaps I could say something like, I object to the fact that this group who have manipulated and obfuscated their way to power now consider their having won the election to be a mandate for imposing their own extremely limited and exclusionary views on what constitutes an acceptable way of living and of perceiving the world onto all and sundry through semi-permanent legislative and policy change – and that this is accompanied by a mantra-like belief in the acceptability of brainwashing the more vulnerable sectors of society into following their lead (I’ve been noticing recently that one of the major tenets of conservatism seems to be that once an ostensibly logical, though completely bad-faith position on something is arrived at (eg the contention that “stopping the boats” is all about preventing people from risking their lives by undertaking a dangerous journey), then it is fine to promote this idea amongst the more vulnerable members of society to the extent they become a mouthpiece for it, thereby achieving strength in numbers). To put it another way, conservatism is the opposite of intellectualism, and Abbott et al are the epitome of government-by-blind ignorance and ludditism.

    I really like the concept of an apolitical protest movement with its basis in ideas, particularly as I have thought for some time that this government’s conduct has been so offensive as to have provoked wide-scale outrage which transcends any social and factional division.

    But to actually enunciate ideas in a way that will resonate with the people we want to have listen to them really is very difficult, perhaps precisely because they are seemingly so inculcated in the world of political divisions (themselves being examples of people who have been brainwashed beyond redemption) that they are incapable of taking ideas at face value. “you’re just saying that because you’re not one of us”, is what they’ll say.

    Perhaps the obvious solution is to fight fire with fire and simply use numbers to run them out of town. But that’s a little unsatsifactory as they will still exist (the analogy of the unflushable turd comes to mind here).

    So yeah, I like this idea, maybe precisely because it presents a bit of a personal challenge… so I hope lots of people turn out, and I hope the fact that there is a personal challenge associated will advance the idea that thinking for oneself is better than taking the easy, conservative way out.


    • Maria March 15, 2014 at 5:41 pm #

      Yes, I agree with what you’re saying. , samjandwich, ..I’m really beginning to sense that people across the board, (including many who normally wouldn’t give a shit & many conservatives), are waking up to the reality that having the Liberals in power has & is wreaking havoc on so much they complacently take/took for granted. I’m sensing a healthy sense of alarm setting in & they’re pointing the finger at Abbott. Yeess!!..Hopefully, many of them+, will DO something & protest/march & March in March will act as a catalyst for a major movement to disempower the LNP & the neo-liberals who prop it up. I’ve also been thinking about how to express/sum up the carnage, with more to come, in a way that will be effective. Something around the large scale attacks on Democratic freedoms in Australia, already making way for a Corpratocracy. I think Jennifer’s points about how an increasing number of freedoms & privileges
      most Australians have always taken as given, are now on the line, is an angle which might strike a collective chord. Especially, if lots of folk from all walks of life can identify with those losses.


      • paul walter March 16, 2014 at 11:54 am #

        Yes, Maria and there is the trouble..death of historical and cultural memory. We have forgotten who we are; what we are or were, or even never experienced as to reality in the sense that the people in “Send the Back to Where They Belong” had to experience when forced to confront themselves.
        That’s without going into the plight of the real victims, the refugees.

        Big Yellow Taxi sums it, you don’t miss what you’ve got till it’s gone as to the hard won rights our elders and betters earned for us that we’ve taken for granted.

        So march. Lift a finger. Australian life might not continue to remain the Aristotelian-timeless paradise or Dreamtime we take for granted; the garden may require a little weeding once in a while.

        Even a check out the window to see if it’s still there could be better than just taking it for granted.


    • Gruffbutt March 19, 2014 at 10:11 pm #

      ‘(I’ve been noticing recently that one of the major tenets of conservatism seems to be that once an ostensibly logical, though completely bad-faith position on something is arrived at (eg the contention that “stopping the boats” is all about preventing people from risking their lives by undertaking a dangerous journey), then it is fine to promote this idea amongst the more vulnerable members of society to the extent they become a mouthpiece for it, thereby achieving strength in numbers).’

      Sod it. I’ll invoke Godwin’s here – it’s okay because I’m agreeing with you, if slandering Abbot’s lot (they can take a little criticism…for now). Goebell’s first target was the intellectually disabled, or ‘idiots’, ‘morons’, ‘imbeciles’, ‘defectives’… The films advocated killing them to put them out of their misery, then everyone could feel good at doing the right thing…and down we go…


  5. DuvessSimone March 14, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    Well written and good point. Many thanks for the post!! I am very much looking forward to expressing myself at the march tomorrow, I’m in North Queensland 🙂


  6. Marilyn March 15, 2014 at 6:14 pm #

    The first rally to free David Hicks was about 7 people in Adelaide – Terry Hicks, Steve Kenny, Sandra Kanck, Nick Xenophon, me Stephanie Key of the ALP and Frances Bedford from the ALP.

    The last protest was 10,000+ in a long march and candlelit vigil in Rundle Mall and it spilled through the city.

    The first protest against Woomera got about 5,000, the last one was about 40,000. Things build and build as they should.

    The first protests about saving the Franklin were small, got to be huge. The first moratoriums were small, grew to be enormous around the world.

    The only real failed protest that I can think of is the bullish invasion of Iraq in spite of tens of millions protesting in every corner of the globe, that was three very peculiar cretins.


  7. doug quixote March 15, 2014 at 11:09 pm #

    Pathetic, rather like the Occupy movement, and starring the same fools.

    The only way to oppose Abbott and his henchmen is to support the ALP. The Greens are an (un)reasonable alternative if the strict discipline required for Labor is unacceptable.

    Does anyone really think a Ukraine- or Egypt-style protest will happen here???

    I wish.

    But don’t hold your breath.


    • Marilyn March 16, 2014 at 5:11 pm #

      Really? The ALP are scarcely any different to the libs. Which is why at the last federal election 32% in the HOR and 33% in the senate voted for neither of the above.


      Here is what your fucking heroine Gillard did to innocent human beings knowing very well the damage it would cause and that the racist liberals would continue it.


      • Gruffbutt March 19, 2014 at 9:58 pm #

        Another fence-sitter here.

        To call Occupy and this current movement pathetic is pathetic. To think more of the same dual-party ‘they’re worse than us’ politics is going to fix anything is pathetic. Anything decent that the Australian Lesser Evil Party ever supposedly stood for has been steadily dying at the same rate as the magical opinion polls are being pumped out to eager increasingly irrelevant number-crunchers.

        Of course we’re not going to see Ukraine or Egypt-style protests for a long time yet – we have it too good. But why wait until it gets to their standards? (Not that it was their fault – all the more reason to say something while we can).

        And it’s nothing to do with sentiment or lack thereof. I can get a nice smug glow from reading articles that confirm my beliefs, or I can get out on the street to vent my frustrations and risk the weight of politics and media and the odd angry punter in the street crashing down on me.

        The fact I didn’t make it to the event to show my support – pathetic.

        (The fact I’m behind in my reading and didn’t find out about it in time – pathetic…)


        • paul walter March 19, 2014 at 10:43 pm #

          Well spoken Gruffbutt.. so true, in so many respects.


        • Marilyn March 21, 2014 at 6:19 am #

          Well said, and if you watched Clarke and Dawe question time about the noise generating by dissenters against the government in the ALP you would hear the same empty silence.


        • doug quixote March 21, 2014 at 7:47 am #

          Pathetic : “capable of arousing sympathy or sadness and compassion.”

          But the secondary meaning of “woefully inadequate” is there lurking in the undertones.

          (DQ sighs)


          • Gruffbutt March 21, 2014 at 12:10 pm #

            And I’m too lazy to consult a dictionary – pathetic?

            But thanks for pushing me off the fence 🙂


  8. paul walter March 15, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    Oddly, disagree/agree with both Doug and Marilyn.

    DQ is unsentimental, but Marilyn also is right, there are are too many serious things wrong both within and beyond Australia for things to be allowed to go on without at least some sort of comment.


    • doug quixote March 16, 2014 at 7:13 am #

      You sound like HG. I thought he was the champion fence sitter. Perhaps you only get the Silver Medal. 🙂


      • paul walter March 16, 2014 at 11:42 am #

        Please, doug…

        Ok, seriously, so not the caped crusader so much, but maybe someone keeping their powder dry for an effective shot where possible?

        In which case, I am like yourself and Marilyn.

        I would change things if I could, as both of you and HG and Jenny would.


  9. doug quixote March 16, 2014 at 4:08 pm #

    If wishes were cars all beggars would be chauffeur driven in Bentleys.

    Lets go :

    Increase all taxes by 20% worldwide;

    Nationalise every important industry;

    Confiscate personal wealth beyond a threshold of two million, all assets included (pro rata it for each country)

    Ensure that everyone who wants to work has a job;

    Ensure equality of education opportunity;

    Ensure all schools are free, compulsory to age 17 and secular;

    Confiscate all Church property other than places of worship (I suppose the opiate of the masses has to be tolerated)

    Ensure all churches and like institutions pay their appropriate tax

    That would be a good start.

    None of it will ever happen, but let’s all protest.

    Worth a try. 🙂


    • Marilyn March 16, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

      Alternately we could all sit around with partisan beliefs and do fucking nothing but slag off progressives.


      • zerograv1 March 17, 2014 at 5:00 pm #

        And thats the point, this blog is largely read and commented on by people from the leftist point of view. Without forgiving Abbotts monumental fuckups, the fact is the ALP hardly did better did they? Seems to me everyone would rather web-express their grievance that actually do something. Marching is all well and goiod, but it has an impact lasting about 1 day after which business as usual takes over. I wonder if any here actually dare to do something a lot more effective, like Join whichever political group they align with, or put their hand up to run as an independant? Or maybe organise a community meeting in their area to effect on the ground real change…..I’ll wager not may….after all typing on a keyboard is a much easier form of exercise than getting off your arse and doing something other than dreaming of what might be


        • Anonymous March 17, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

          Zero, they have the tasers.

          As it happens, your idea about (lack of) criticality of Labor’s flaws is observed here, from two trajectories.
          Firstly, conservatives do turn up here and they do offer the usual commentaries on Israel and imagined anti semitism, they do issue forth about market forces and Industrial relations and some even grumble about sex and refugees as unhygenic queue jumpers.
          They are generally ignored, for good reason.

          Secondly, from the left itself.
          The ALP can be a bit of a punching bag, often because of backsliding on issues of principle.
          I think they duck the issues on environmentalism and Marilyn wants to choke them for not finally showing a bit of humanity as to refugees. Others are resentful of Labor’s social conservatism on education and gender issues, and the ALP Right faction as a handbreak on progressivism.

          One lot say they are too left, the other too conservative, but I tend to go along with the second.


          • Marilyn March 17, 2014 at 9:44 pm #

            Far right in the ALP are the same as the Abbott mob.


            • doug quixote March 17, 2014 at 10:29 pm #

              We agree at last.

              Though the right in the ALP generally support welfare and the redistribution of wealth, anathema to the Looter’s Party.


              • Marilyn March 18, 2014 at 8:55 pm #

                Hey Abbott and co. believe in wealth distribution, they just want to take from the poor and give to the rich


                • Anonymous March 19, 2014 at 12:20 pm #

                  Are you enjoying watching the Sinodinis thing develop?

                  Luvverly listening to Penny Wong having a bit of fun with it in the senate this morning, but Erica Betz was stomach turning, although it is always ok to listen to him for a few moments, just to recall why you disliked him in the first place.

                  But wait… a sound.

                  Clanking chains.. a moan.

                  Is this the ghost of Craig Thompson I hear?


                  • paul walter March 19, 2014 at 10:08 pm #

                    Just reading about this in a Lenore Taylor column at the Guardian.. the details of the the accusations against Arthur Sinodinis themselves indicate a sly and sophisticated procession and it is not possible those involved didn’t know what was going down.

                    Dwarfs massively anything attributed to Thompson, links with that other cesspit of corruption, the NSW ALP Right, demonstrates how someone further down might be tempted to misuse a credit card when criminality of this order is de rigueur with the elite and appears to be a social norm.

                    Speaking of social norms, isn’t it a nice story, that one about Pru Goward throwing out public housing tenants in Sydney to oblige

                    This after they brought in new rules to kick public housing tenants out if they were single and had places with more than one bedroom.


                  • Marilyn March 21, 2014 at 6:20 am #

                    Am actually laughing out loud about Arfur, as Paul can attest.


                    • doug quixote March 21, 2014 at 7:50 am #

                      I am too, though I’m not at all surprised. This smug doyen of the right is finally getting his comeuppance.



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  1. Taking to the streets: why protest matters | Shit's Gotta Stop - March 13, 2014

    […] Taking to the streets: why protest matters. From ‘No Place For Sheep‘; Pressed, with thanks! […]


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