[g8-sheffield] Re: the right of unlawful protest

John Smith johncsmith at btinternet.com
Mon Jun 20 15:50:13 BST 2005

Dear anti-G8

Laws concerning the right to protest, the right to strike, to free speech
and to elect political representatives codify what has and what has not been
conquered through the political pressure and actions of millions of people
who have gone before us. These rights were extracted from our exploiters and
oppressors, who are constantly probing for openings and pretexts to erode
and reverse these legally-established rights. 

It follows from these observations that our task is to exercise our legal
rights, to denounce and resist attempts to restrict these rights, and to
struggle instead for these rights to be extended in law and in practice. It
also follows that our rights will never be secure while the exploiting,
oppressing minority remain in power. It also follows that our obedience to,
or resistance to, what the police chiefs consider to be 'the law' is a
tactical question, not a principle to be elevated above all else.

This is the political way to approach this question. We cannot get very far
if we instead regard 'rights' as absolute, abstract, existing for all time
and all places. Where did they come from - God???? 

To accuse the StWC of 'betrayal' for negotiating a legal protest with the
police is extremist, divisive and nonsense. I hold no brief for the StWC,
but I would just note that they publically denounced the oppressive
restrictions placed on their legal protests, and acquiesced to these
restrictions under protest. What they did was no different to what the G8
group decided to do, when a meeting unanimously assigned myself and Jillian
Creasey to try to negotiate with the police a route for a legal
demonstration on the first day of the criminals' visit.

If we ('we' meaning the anti-G8, StWC and all progressive forces) were
unable to dissuade the G8 from coming to Sheffield in the first place, and
unable to defend our right to protest in the middle of our city, this is a
reflection of the balance of forces, of our relative isolation, of our
disunity, of our failure to mobilise more than a fraction of one per cent of
this city's inhabitants.

There is no short cut to winning the confidence and the participation of
*the majority*. To the extent that we go down the road advised by Adriana
and others, we will succeed only in deepening our isolation, aggravating
still further our disunity, and providing our enemies with the pretexts they
need to undermine still further the legal rights which our forefathers and
foremothers fought for.

John S

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