Today marks the twentieth anniversary of one of the largest marches in defence of the right to protest and assemble freely in this country. The Criminal Justice Act was introduced by the Major government in order to clamp down on a fast growing anti-roads movement, but it also targeted other groups inclusing ravers, the Roma community and travellers by withdrawing the obligation of council to provide caravan pitches.
Today much of this legislation has been superseded by even more draconian laws restricting the right to protest (or even freely assemble) with many more laws with names like SOCPA and PACE. Every government since the 80’s has introduced legislation which has restricted the right to protest in one form or another. That this change has gone hand-in-hand with a major transfer of wealth from the majority to a tiny wealthy elite is no coincidence. Inequality and protest mutually condition each other as the most unequal societies also tend to be the ones where police violence and the law combine to restrict or deter protest movements.
Today’s successors to the anti-roads movement of the 90s are the anti-fracking camps which are springing up all over the county and who are now exposed to all these laws
Most people do not take to protest lightly, it is very consuming both in money and time and can put a huge strain on family relationships. But when the normal democratic process itself fails, as it clearly has with the government imposition of fracking, the only recourse left for people is to take direct action, whether that be by taking to the streets, occupying land or taking industrial action. Even liberal defenders of the status quo would recognise that protest is an essential corrective to the defects of a democratic society. But it seems the only right to trespass this government is willing to enhance is the the fracking industry’s right to frack and other people’s land.
The best way to defend the right that the government and corporate elite would take away from us is by excercising those same rights on a massive scale. That applies whether it be striking, occupying or simply taking to the streets.
So there are two important dates you need to keep in your diary. The first is Reclaim the Power, an action camp to be held in Blackpool, which organised by climate justice activists in solidarity with the local groups opposing fracking in that part of the country. The second important event is Occupy Democracy, which will be held in Parliament Square. This important event is on the eve of a major anti-austerity march organised by the TUC, and it will mark the third anniversay of the Occupy movement. The purpose of Occupy Democracy is to launch a genuine democracy movement to campaign for a genuine democracy free from corporate influence. We did not vote for NHS privatisation, the trippling of student debt or the governments unjust spending cuts. These policies do not have the consent of the people. They have been imposed at the behest of a tiny corporate elite, which will gain financially from such policies