07.02 Restricting protest…

Protest as a construct is affected by and too often curtailed by three major forces, legislation, Perception and Spatiality

It is important to see protest in this way as it is the effect of a reaction to an action which is disapproved of; and thus an attempt to express ones distain at these actions. This is the imbedded desire of the protest to make a statement of change.

Acts of protests in and of themselves are not necessarily the consciousness to repeal a law, practice or act; but to express the disapproving perception of it to the powers that created that situation. However, there are constructs which negate these possible avenues of power for protest.

The area of legislation that we are interested in is a culmination of laws past to control and thereby restrict the remit of the public realm. Particularly prevalent are laws which restrict the power of unions, followed closely by those laws which create exclusion zones and privatise large swaths of previously public land; particularly where powerful institutions are situated. Together, these forms of legislation which have rapidly expanded in their remit over the past 30 to 40 years shows a political desire to sacrifice freedom of expression in the public realm, for control and stability.

As such, the perception of protest activity has become one of public accepted negativity. Popular newspapers, television and radio stations – as well as politicians; all marginalise the reasons and issues for protest action and unanimously choose instead to focus on alternative realities of disruption and the trajectories of normality. This perceptive stance will increasingly relegate acts of protest to sensationalist images and sound bites and thereby undermine the intention and subvert the potential quality of the discussion that should ensue.

This status quo of controlled public spatiality is maintained by facilitating law enforcement officials with powers of detention and interrogation which undermines freedom of movement of the individual in public space. As such protest is further marginalised and by relinquishing these powers to these forces; normalises the practice further.

The aim here in this article is to create awareness that these constructs are present. It is for each individual to assess whether the slide into increasingly authoriutarian public realms is a positive or negative development of the past 40 years. However, the mistake would be not to notice that these changes are even taking place, and somehow to accept the new order without realising its revolutionary status.


This article was written in 2012 and as such is written in the context of the social and political conditions of the time

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