Friday, 12 November 2010

Mindless violence?

Now it is easy to sit back and condemn the scenes of students breaking windows and trying to enter buildings as ‘mindless violence.’ But one broken window and attempts to enter a building do not constitute the start of a revolution! Whatever the London press may say.
Perhaps at this point I should declare an interest. In the 60’s whilst a student at the London School of Economics I too showed the same determination as some of the students last Wednesday to get into a building. The object of my singularly ineffective efforts was the American Embassy in London to protest against the Vietnam War.
Many of us at the time wanted to enter the Embassy, quite what we would have done had we got in, I know not. I guess we would have sat in there for a while until removed by the authorities. After all we had done the same in LSE itself.
Occupying buildings for a while, seemed at the time a good idea and was seen by protesters as a legitimate form of protest.
Nearer home, Cymdeithas yr Iaith adopted similar methods to win rights for the Welsh language.
A couple of years ago I wrote and presented a short documentary about protests in Wales for ITV.  What struck me at the time was how many of those taking part in protests of all kinds were now part of the Welsh or English  ‘establishment.’
You can hardly think of an organisation in Wales that is not run by an ex-member of ‘Cymdeithas’, as it is affectionately known. They are, for certain, the great and the good of Welsh society. Establishment, you bet!
Farmer protesters, who hijacked lorries and threw their contents into the Irish sea, later become magistrates, councillors and Assembly Members. Those fuel protests, that held us all to ransom, their leader is now a respected Conservative Assembly member.
Protesters against Apartheid who stopped rugby matches and cricket tours became Ministers of the Crown.
Protest, demonstrations and other acts of civil disobedience are as much part of the political process as voting and elections. After all, our politicians don’t always get it right and sometimes action is the only way to get them to listen. The history of this country is shaped by those that have taken to the streets. Long may it last.
As for the students, it was good to see them shake off their apathy and do what students have always done, challenge their elders and betters. And when in turn they become tomorrow’s rulers, they’ll know that there are always consequences to every decision. A lesson Mr Clegg and his party may have learnt this week.


  1. And although it's 'what students have always done', British students seem to have been taking a break from doing it for a very long time!! In my mis-spent youth...yes, it was back in the '60's... student protest was the norm, and came with a by product of making students more aware of their responsibilities towards their fellow men and women. Good to see these values reappearing !!

  2. Does the burden of debt make them less likely to protest?

  3. Seems like a lot of middle class kids demanding that the working class susidise their increasingly parasitical careers.

  4. The over zealous approach to protests but the security services directly led to Wednesday's events. When people who engage in peaceful office occupations and traditional rampaging get labelled 'terrorists' and are subjected to regular police harassment; it leaves only spontaneous action as a viable outlet.

    The scope for further direct action against the cuts is massive. But first there is the matter of beating police repression.

  5. It was for sure the minority. no coverage was given to those who peacefully protested- all 50,000 of them. only the violent scenes at tory hq. I do see why they did it though, although personally, I wouldn't

  6. Neil (Jock) Greer14 November 2010 at 22:58

    Well Gareth your article nails a lot of truth in your observations Ffros-y-Fran Opencasting,Save our Hospitals,Save our Primary School and better deals for tenents from fleecing landlords alongside the No Vote at the Welsh Assembly these are paramount to debate and protest does bring that out in people. So article was good

  7. It would appear that the sensible advice given out by the FITwatch website has landed it in some trouble with the authorities and the site has been suspended.

    Is this the sign of the emergence of an over-zealous policing, or just the usual suppression of free speech that any government would do?

    Either way, you can still see the site's webcache here:

  8. well gareth if you had succeeded in storming the gates of the US embassy all those years ago it is entirely possible you wouldnt be around today to regale us with tales of your radical youth as the marines stationed there were of course under orders to shoot anyone trying to get into the US embassy could well have become a martyr of the anti-vietnam war movement...spoken of in the same glowing terms as other radical heroes of the period such as Che and Rudi Dutschke...and would probably have a room at the sennedd building named after you by now.....

    By the way you were rght to protest in 1968 and i think you called it absolutely right as regards last weeks student protests. Well done for being one of the few 'commentators' to actually do so!

    Leigh Richards