Friday, 12 November 2010
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.