Weekly Writing Challenge – Mind the Gap – Occupy Protests
Even earlier than Greenham Common, The Aboriginal Tent Embassy was established on Australia Day in 1972 to protest the decision by the McMahon Liberal government to reject a proposal for Aboriginal Land rights. The occupation was set up on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra and quickly gained momentum. At one point there were over 2,000 protestors living in the space. Government moved to outlaw the camp and in 1972 police moved in and forcibly dismantled the embassy – it was re-established in 1974 and remained until 1976 when activist Charles Perkins negotiated its removal pending the enactment of the Aboriginals Land Rights Act in 1976.
Why do People Occupy?
Under the Human Rights Act people have a right to express their opinion and to protest. However the law also has enactments that direct protesters to follow certain rules and that allow the government to take action if they suspect the protest will not be peaceful or if it endangers others.
Here is some advice that I found about alternatives to effectively making your voice heard other than protesting.
- talk with your MP in person at a local surgery in your constituency
- write a letter to MPs and members of the House of Lords
- start or sign a petition and present it to your MP
- start or sign a petition on the Number 10 website
- start a website or blog expressing your views
- get involved in politics yourself – run for office
- join a political party and argue for your cause”
I suspect that many people have tried these methods before resorting to demonstrating or organising an occupation. I also supsect that one must be pretty fired up, desperate and at the end of the road to be prepared to sacrifice home comforts, security and risk being arrested to make a point.
Are Occupy Protests Effective?
Media loves controversy – it makes good press and somehow I can’t see any of the above alternative options selling many newspapers. In many countries marches’, protests and rallies have to be registered with the police which can be a good thing. After all they have to sort out the traffic, protect the public and dictate what you can and can’t do. However it is newsworthy? The element of surprise is lost, the shock factor diminished, the ability to control the type of participant diluted as more anti-social elements learn about it and can plan to hijack the gathering for their own means.
The Greenham Common Women became a public focal point for peace, the Tent Embassy highlighted broader Indigenous rights and the wall street occupation made headlines around the world about American peoples plight. Unity can be so much more effective than a single letter in the wilderness to the local MP. It shouts for action, it attracts controversy/empathy/sympathy/anger/extremism. Whether you are for or against occupy protests, one thing is for certain you will be talking and reaqing about the issues it raises for some time.
If you want to join in the challenge see Weekly Writing Challenge http://dailypost.wordpress.com/2012/09/24/weekly-writing-challenge-mind-the-gap-ows/