[g8-sheffield] assuring our right to demonstrate

John Smith johncsmith at btinternet.com
Sat May 21 19:34:47 BST 2005

Dear Chris

I'm not suggesting we demand that the police don't turn up, I'm trying to
establish the principle that we don't need and don't want the police to
police *our* demonstrations. 

You say "The two of the best demonstrations I can remember in Sheffield, the
Mayday 200 one and the one on the day war against Iraq started didn't have
defined routes, in a situation like that the stewards would have ended up
being left on their own by everyone..."

Such a spontaneous action as those you mention is very different to the
context and nature of *this* demonstration. For one thing, Sheffield wasn't
crawling with armed police and CIA like it will be... In fact, day one of
the war met with very light policing. The whole question of security is at
the opposite extreme this time. A small incident can quickly escalate out of
hand. We must give people confidence that we are in control of our own
demonstration, not the police - and neither any small group who might think
about sitting down or straying from the agreed route. What is wrong with
asking all who join the march to abide by the route and assist the work of
the stewards in ensuring that the march proceeds?

Our main concern must be to do what we can to get the biggest possible
demonstration in the town centre. To do this, we have to work out a route
with the police. But this is very different from limply handing control of
*our* demonstration over to the police. We assert our intention to take
responsibility ourselves for the conduct of our protest.

You ask: "what kinds of disorder are you anticipating that the stewards are
going to be tackling? I can't think on any example of something happening on
demos in Sheffield that has required this kind of stuff..."

I'm not anticipating any disorder, instead we should try to anticipate the
public battle we have to wage to assert our right to demonstrate. 

I think that this exchange has opened up some important issues; It's not yet
clear that we can't achieve consensus, but I'd like to hear other points of
view before suggesting a different wording. 


John S

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