**Please circulate widely**
The project is actively recruiting research participants who plan to attend either (or both) upcoming protest events in London, UK:
- BRITAIN NEEDS A PAYRISE demonstration organized by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) on Saturday 18th October 2014. More details can be found here: http://britainneedsapayrise.org/
- FREE EDUCATION: NO FEES. NO CUTS. NO DEBT demonstration organized by the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) on Wednesday 19th November 2014. More details: http://anticuts.com/
The expectation is that (a) participants are committed to attending either or both of the above events, (b) they are willing to record their involvement using a personal video camera or other device (smartphone etc.), (c) desire to be interviewed on the footage at a later date, and (d) be willing for the recorded data to be used in further analysis across the course of the Playing with Protest research project.
Any and all attendees are welcome to sign-up. Participants with specific mobility needs are especially encouraged to get in contact. There is no expectation that participants walk or otherwise participate in the ‘official’ routes/route lengths in its entirety.
More details will be given to prospective participants once they have signed-up. To do so, please fill in the contact form on the Participation Sign-up page on the Playing with Protest website. If you have any questions regarding ethics, practicalities, technology use or other such issues, please don’t hesitate to contact me via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
At London Student. From within:
One increasingly observes a shift to highly choreographed, state-sponsored protest as the only legitimate form of political action on the [UK] street[s]. Simultaneously, the police are becoming ever more determined to make arrests before protests have even occurred, preferring not to deal with finer details such as whether or not the law has been broken. All of this – the data collection, the pre-arrests, the mass arrests, the assaults on activists, the malicious prosecution – is done to actively undermine free assembly and association.
A 10 minute video on the police tactics employed during OWS nearly 2 years ago on the eve of its anniversary (via the sparrow project). The narration grounds the visual evidence of multiple arrests in relation to their apparent arbitrary nature, based on clothing, personal appearances and facial hair. Interesting in light of the mass arrests in Tower Hamlets recently.
It is also worth noting the similarity to the strategies employed by the London Metropolitan Police Force over the last few years. Although I would perhaps break from the videographers’ narrative to suggest that onward movement during such events is not necessarily a bad thing, and can in fact, as the Met well know, create even more problems for the police.
A Comment is Free video over at the Guardian. Aside from taking rhizomatic as his own concept, this is a relatively good introduction by Manuel Castells into the dynamic of protest movements, urban space and what he calls ‘cyberspace’. I’m always a little wary of the latter category hence the scare quotes.
I find it a little odd people like Castells are still trying to make sharp boundaries between urban (‘physical’) and cyber (‘non-physical’) space. The city is full of digital technology – in fact, contemporary cities are positively built on it, so why when it comes to discussing protest movements do we essentialize urban space as being pure, physical, non-digital space? Conversely, why do we see the digital as not having an effect on ‘on the ground’ protest? It patently does.
A bike blog post on The Guardian concerning the trial of 9 cyclists prosecuted after last summer’s Olympic Games Critical Mass.
The case seemingly revolved around the definition of protest, and whether the ill-fated ride constituted a protest event or not. The London Metropolitan Police thought it did. Critical Mass participants, arguably, did not. It is described by the author of this piece as an ‘explicitly apolitical social event’.
Critical Mass rides are patently not ‘explicitly apolitical social events’ but neither are they hotbeds of wanton anarchy either. Unfortunately and inevitably, they seem to have been drawn into debating whether or not it constituted a political event in order to contend the London Met’s deployment of section 12 of the Public Order Act (“to prevent serious public disorder, serious criminal damage or serious disruption to the life of the community”).
‘Serious disruption’ is obviously a supremely subjective term. Serious public disorder and criminal damage maybe less so. But in truth, this section is readily mobilised if a “senior police officer…reasonably believes” disorder, damage disruption or intimidation is to take place.
So no matter how hard you argue to the contrary, if the senior officer has reasonable belief – and really, that’s no great burden of proof – whatever event, procession, march or ‘apolitical’ bike ride is going to be halted and offending participants arrested. Spinning them as harmless social events won’t quite cut it, despite the obvious injustice.
(Re)constructing the meaning of place, even in temporary ways, can be a tactical act of resistance along with the tactics we traditionally associate with protest, such as speeches, marches and signs.[…P]lace (re)constructions can function rhetorically to challenge dominant meanings and practices in place. Place is a performer along with activists in making and unmaking the possibilities of protest.
From: Endres and Senda-Cook (2011) ‘Location Matters: The Rhetoric of Place in Protest’. Available here (subscription required). I’ve italicized that final sentence because it makes an incredibly important point: who, or what makes or ‘unmakes’ the possibilities of protest? Place is no container of action; no empty grid of co-ordinates waiting to be filled by protesters. Place can be made and re-made by anyone and anything – including non-human matter, and protest equally is an event comprised of and changed by bodies, words, data, legal instruments, musical instruments, walls, temporary barriers and more.