Monday, 12 October 2009

Dale on Greenpeace: "send the army in with a water cannon"

Tory blogger Iain Dale thinks the Greenpeace protesters occupying the roof of the Houses of Parliament should be brought down with water cannons.

"Legitimate protest is one thing. Invading the parliamentary estate like this is quite another. Just leaving them up there on the roof with no intervention by the Police sends a simple message to others who might have the same idea: come on in, we’re too worried about negative press reaction to do anything.

"I wish I had suggested to Bob Ainsworth that he send the army in with a water cannon. It’s the only language they understand".

I'm somewhat perplexed by this last sentence. Surely he means it's the only language the Army understand? Because Greenpeace are in fact dedicated to non-violent direct action. You know, the non-violent sort which poses no threat to life. That sort that doesn't require an army to put them down, like, say, in China?

Equally horrid was @Cardiff_Blogger's reply to me on twitter, in which he said they should be brought down with a rifle. Obviously, this wasn't meant truthfully but it was clearly highly amusing, I think you'll agree, coming in the same week that Iran sentenced to death Mohammad Reza Ali-Zaman for his involvement in the massive protests in Tehran this summer.

As Pickled Politics point out, Dale later tried to laugh it off by adding a disclaimer to the entry:

"UPDATE: For the humourless left, perhaps I should have added a smiley after that sentence. They really don’t do tongue in cheek humour do they? Po faced idiots."

I find it hard to see the water cannon comment as being tongue in cheek at all, considering the context of his other remarks:

"Legitimate protest" - what exactly is "legitimate" protest? We have a right to protest and although these protesters committed trespass, which is obviously illegal, they weren't harming anybody.

"Invading the Parliamentary estate like this..." - What, what! Bloody crusties scaled the battlements 'ey, can't be having that, ought to be toiling in the factories, snort! Let's just keep Parliament for the elite shall we?

Apparently, "Greenpeace should be ashamed of itself". No - Parliament should be ashamed of itself for failing to take seriously enough the issue of climate change. These protesters have taken to the roof because politicians have hitherto failed to address our concerns.

When I asked if whingers like Dale would sit on their hands and keep quiet about an issue they feel strongly about, a couple of people pointed out to me on Twitter that the protest was illegal. When the usual democratic processes fail then sometimes campaigners feel obliged to break the law in order that their voices are heard.

When writing to your MP illicits a response that amounts to no more than "go away you annoying little child" what else can we do? When Labour introduce absurd restrictions on protesting near Parliament, how else can we be heard? Disruption and agitation are necessary to wake people from their slumber. I sound like a stuck record, but where would the civil rights movement and the suffragettes have got without civil disobedience? As long as it remains non-violent and participants are ready to suffer the consequences, in my opinion, there is nothing wrong with breaking the law in the name of protest.

With the likelihood of a Conservative government in power next year, I hope the attitudes of Iain Dale and Cardiff Blogger are not reflective of the wider party or protesters are in for more harassment than normal.

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