I keep reading and watching on television that there was violence at the protest against the proposed 300% rise in fees in UK universities.  I
was at Millbank for a long time and it didn't strike me at the time as being particularly violent, I was thinking of joining the other diners in the Pizza Express to wine and dine with a grandstand view of the apparently appalling scenes. This view, from witnesses to a scene with little violence towards other people, is represented

Furthermore when group of goldsmith's lectures wrote that: "The real violence in this situation relates not to a smashed window but to the destructive impact of the cuts."  Downing Street went on the media trail of condemnation saying: ""Praising violence over peaceful protest is frankly irresponsible" (BBC).

Having recently comeback from 18-months fieldwork researching violence in Colombia, where violence is something very different, I am left wondering how the word violence is being politically and legally used in the Millbank situation and what the consequences might be.

Any thoughts?

Views: 105

Replies to This Discussion

Hi Jonathan. I'm one of the lecturers at Goldsmiths who signed the statement you mention (first issued by Des Freeman and John Wadsworth) and I've also signed the one you linked. I think there are two issues at stake. One is the facile conflation of property damage with violence against people, which the media have in the main worked very hard to accomplish; the other is the blank wall of silence about the structural violence the coalition government intends to inflict on those lowest down on the British food chain through the retrenchment of the public sector. The two are of course linked. Why discuss the mass eviction of the poor from central London and the importation of US-style workfare when there's a broken window at Tory HQ?

I certainly don't condone the chucking of fire extinguishers off rooftops, at the police or anyone else, but that was the act of a single idiot and possibly reflective of the inexperience of the occupiers, many of whom, as Laurie Penny has eloquently pointed out, seemed staggered by their own power and audacity. It'll all come out in the wash (the Graun is reporting a suspect has been arrested) but the events at Millbank are not going to stop more direct action. We're organising at Goldsmiths; are you at one of the London depts?
Thanks for your reply Eliza. It really got me thinking.

For me the, readily accepted, dismissal of the Goldsmith's statement reminded me of the problem with Professor Nutt and his research for the government on the dangers of drug use. That is, although academics may talk about structural violence, it is a meaningless term when media and politicians talk about 'violence'. Professor Nutt could produce all the statistics in the world to demonstrate the relative danger of alcohol compared to ecstasy but the tensions between legal and illegal markets and cultures create a discourse whereby the science doesn't count unless it supports the currently dominant legal market. The 'structural violence' referred to in the Goldsmith's letter, which needed unpacking to those unfamiliar with the term, is only equatable with physical violence in analysis, as text (especially a press release) it remains distinct from the illegal damaging of people or property with direct physical force.

I don't personally believe that the media, which is a rather large and mixed sector, worked any harder than normal on this. The story, which had the most value (professional, economic and political) within their respective outlets, was the illegal use of violence. Furthermore I think that the story, like the supposed violence, was contained within the physical space of the arena at 30 Millwall. The social use of this space went 'violently' outside legal norms and that was sufficient for the conflation between damaging people and damaging property.

Laurie Penny's report reflects my own experience there, naivety and amazement that this was possible. Although I wonder whether naivety is just the product of the amazement and exploration of the possible. However, personally I'm not sure that it will all come out in the wash. In fact, its the washing process that led me to post up here. If the spin cycle declares that it was just another group of radical extremists who misled some innocents into moving outside the law then what we have is mimicking of the 'terror' interpretation, which simultaneously declares that life is good and some unpopular measures always have to be taken to keep it good. In other words it fits in with existing methods of interpreting and responding to social protest and contestation.

Towards this end, although the Goldsmith's letter was in my opinion, analytically correct, how is the reaction to over 2,000 good citizens crossing very close to legal borders going to be handled in the coming weeks by evoking the representation of an unacceptable illegal use of force? Moreover, how far is the conflation between damage to property and people a key part of that process.

Finally, will any of the fallout from the 'violence' of this protest (and protests to come) affect in the contested legislation?

Jonathan Newman said:
Finally, will any of the fallout from the 'violence' of this protest (and protests to come) affect in the contested legislation?

Looks like the government has a plan to prevent further direct action from affecting the legislation with a little violence of their own. This was buried way down in a Guardian article ostensibly about the NUS intent to oust Lib Dems from key seats:

As police face continued criticism for failing to control the march, the Observer has learned that defence firms are working closely with UK armed forces and contemplating a "militarisation" strategy to counter the threat of civil disorder.

The trade group representing the military and security industry says firms are in negotiation with senior officers over possible orders for armoured vehicles, body scanners and better surveillance equipment.

The move coincides with government-backed attempts to introduce the use of unmanned spy drones throughout UK airspace, facilitating an expansion of covert surveillance that could provide intelligence on future demonstrations.

Derek Marshall, of the trade body Aerospace, Defence and Security (ADS), said that such drones could eventually replace police helicopters.

He added that military manufacturers had discussed police procurement policies with the government, as forces look to counter an identified threat of civil disobedience from political extremists.

Meanwhile police sources say they have detected an increase in the criminal intentions of political extremists and are monitoring "extreme leftwing activity" in light of last week's student protest.

The office of the National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism (NCDE) said it was feeding information to Scotland Yard's National Public Order Intelligence Unit, which holds a database of protest groups. NCDE, which in turn works closely with the Confidential Intelligence Unit that monitors political groups throughout the UK, said it had already recorded a rise in politically motivated disorder.

Why educate students when you can just beat them? Maybe it's cheaper. I've argued elsewhere though that it was never about the dosh.



OAC Press



© 2019   Created by Keith Hart.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service