London has become a city of protest. Over the past two weeks, major protests have been taking place in central London. The first was aimed at curbing the austerity measures currently being pushed by the UK Government to try to close the deficit the country has in its accounts following the worldwide financial crisis. Opponents say that the government has cut funding for essential services too much and too quickly, which is causing stagnation.
A second protest was a celebrity backed campaign, with comedian Russell Brand and writer Will Self in attendance to try to force a change to the drugs law to make possession of small amounts of illegal substances a non-criminal offence. Supporters of this campaign claim that the government has been ignoring scientific advice on this subject for many years to its own end and have vowed to fight.
Added to these two protests, this month has also seen a widespread media protest by the BBC and others against the Egyptian government as their colleagues from the news network Al Jazeera were arrested and, subsequently, imprisoned for what is seen as just doing their job.
London has become a city of protest, but the question that this raises is: are the protests actually heard any more?
While the ability to take to the streets in protest when someone feels things are not correct is one of the greatest freedoms Britons enjoy, London has become a battleground for protest, with one taking place almost every day. The general consensus among British people is that a protester’s right to protest is supported, regardless of whether someone agrees with their point of view – a sort of “I may not like what you say, but I will fight for your right to say it” mentality. The problem, however, is that with so many of these protests and demonstrations taking place, for seemingly any reason, do they run the risk of diluting the power of the protest?
It is a pretty simple and convincing argument as one or two large protests in a year would surely draw more attention from those that matter than a smattering of smaller protests on a daily basis. In this way, they almost become a part of the London backdrop and are, seemingly, being taken less and less seriously by the Government. The fact that most protests or demonstrations get little to no media coverage these days is also testament to this idea. In fact, on the whole, the only time a demonstration makes it onto a news source is if there are celebrity backers or there has been some sort of violent disorder within the protest group, usually by or against police or opposing groups.
It is also worth pointing out that although many protests take place in the city of London, they seldom do enough to change the opinion of the rule makers in Westminster – the student fees protest did not stop the government introducing £9,000 ($15,300 U.S.) a year tuition charges for example, nor did the long standing protest over the occupation of Iraq change the government’s plans in the area. It, therefore, may be time for the protesting groups to think strategically and collectively to get their messages heard.