Protesting too much

January 30th, 2011
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Seeing the ongoing protests in Tunisia and Egypt, friend of this blog Phil E., recalled an earlier post I had done and added some very inciteful comments of his own.  Here they are:

I saw an interesting picture this morning that resonated with your December 15th post on Protest Etiquette.  There was a picture last week in the Globe & Mail of a protest rally in Egypt. After the recent events in Tunisia there have been protests across the Arab world (and unfortunately several self-immolations also) as the average guy protests against the authoritarian regimes and corruption of their governments.  Many of these regimes use extremely brutal means to suppress dissent and maintain their rule. Consequently, protesters at events such as that pictured run tremendous risks, not only at the protest, but also of having government security forces breaking into their homes and hauling them off to detention facilities for unknown amounts of time and possible torture.

Yet in the picture ALL those protesters are out there with their faces fully exposed.  Compare that to the pictures of the protests in Toronto, with the bands of protesters with their faces covered in black bandanas – whose only real risk is an arrest followed by the “harsh” punishment of a small fine. That scenario would only occur, if and only if they are caught in a blatant criminal act.

I think we should follow the German’s lead, obscuring one’s face during a protest or civil uprising is an automatic offence, subject to immediate arrest.

I have no problem with people who want to legally protest, but have the guts to stand up and identify yourself with your beliefs. In addition this would deter the anarchists who are just out there to cause violence and damage for their own “enjoyment”.

We might add to Phil’s comments that mandatory “exposure” at protests might reveal just how small the group of recreational agitators actually is and that you’d likely see the same faces appear time and again at different events across the country and even internationally. That in turn would administer an immediate astroturf test to the whole proceedings. The protests would be shown to be anything but spontaneous, and be revealed as political demonstrations by the “usual” suspects.

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By John Weissenberger