‘Smash EDO”s Brighton Smash: Rights without responsibilities

PROTEST War 134089Peaceful protest is a British right we cherish. That’s why protesters were allowed the freedom of the city I live in yesterday. Marching, demonstration, even disruption to traffic is justifiable. We saw bottles and cans thrown at police, paint splashed on public and private property, protesters damaged homes, business premises and, most egregiously, they damaged honest folk trying to do an honest trade on a Bank Holiday Monday. Peaceful protest is a British right we celebrate.

Peaceful protest is a British right we enjoy. That’s why I have joined demonstrations many times in my life: Reclaim the Streets, Anti-CJA, War in Iraq to name but a few. The right to protest is a freedom we celebrate. It’s a right I will defend until the day I die. But all rights come with responsibilities.

Smash EDO’ (the organisation that coordinated the demo) refused to cooperate with the police despite requests. ‘Smash EDO’ has called the actions a success and hasn’t condemned any acts of unpeaceful protest. Wheelie bins were used as weapons by protesters. Police were attacked. The Palace Pier was stormed. Flares were lit and paint bombs were thrown. ‘Smash EDO’ wants rights but is unwilling to take responsibility. Rights come with responsibilities.

What was this protest about? It’s unclear. It was variously “against the war, capitalism, and the arms trade.” EDO is a company with premises in Brighton. Apparently, EDO makes components for weapons that the Israeli Government used against Gaza. That’s where ‘Smash EDO’ get their name.

The right to protest is a freedom we protect. But we all also have responsibilities. The march today roamed all over the city. People danced on top of a cafe at the pier. An expensive police presence was required (and as far as we know right now it looks like it was well executed without G20-style violence.) In any case, the police will be held accountable for sure. By the press, police scrutiny bodies, citizens. But what of the protesters? They exercised their rights: did they consider their responsibilities?

Valued tourists didn’t come to Brighton on a May Bank Holiday because they (quite understandably) feared they weren’t safe. Businesses in the city centre and on the seafront will have lost custom. This city made sure that protesters were heard. Protester: we enforced your rights… now it’s time to take responsibility.

This protest wasn’t peaceful. Paint. Flares. Windows smashed. Graffiti. Vandalism. Police. Inconvenience. Traffic chaos. Customers discouraged. Shut streets. Thousands of businesses in Brighton were adversely affected. And yet the one company you didn’t inconvenience was EDO. Any rational person calls that failure. It’s time to take responsibility and apologise to the people of Brighton.

11 Responses to ‘Smash EDO”s Brighton Smash: Rights without responsibilities

  1. Sue says:

    What was this protest about? It’s unclear.
    Ah, thanks, I’ve been trying to figure it out. The Argus didn’t seem to be clarifying things either (which will surprise few people, I suspect).

  2. pp says:

    You are wrong about rights carrying responsibilities. This is an argument used by the government to steal your rights. Anything that carries a responsibility is not a right.

    The left have gone mad defining things as ‘rights’ when they are nothing of the sort – having diluted the idea of a ‘right’, they follow up by putting restrictions on these ‘phoney rights’, and so put restrictions on our real rights too.

    Protest (freedom of speech) is a right and carries no responsibilities and should not be restricted.

    The issue here is that violence against others and their property has no part in ‘protest’ – don’t attack freedom of speech when the thing you object to is nothing to do with freedom of speech – by doing so you are falling into the trap set by those who would enslave us.

  3. Jon Silver says:

    I entirely agree with you on the subject of Smash EDO’s utter disregard for the rights of the individual and legitimate business, Dan. All they seem to stand for is anarchy and anti-establishment vandalism – an own-goal at every step. But the Police yesterday scared me, and I saw fear on the faces of others too, ordinary people who were nothing to do with the protest. There was no attempt to reassure and inform the public. I saw grins on the faces of some Police that I have only ever seen on the faces of thugs enjoying the prospect of a good scrap.

  4. dw says:

    Jon,

    I’m not defending or justifying any police action yesterday: I think that’s totally different discussion. Indeed, I’ve been on demos and been horrified by the police. But they are always going to be as aspect of protest on some level.

    I recall the march against the war in Iraq way back when. The police were brilliant: the biggest demo in British political history was entirely peaceful because people wanted it to be. I think that’s what underpins my point here: yesterday was about mischief from the very beginning.

  5. dw says:

    pp: I think you’re totally wrong. Rights come with responsibilities.

    Here’s a few ideas. The freedom of speech comes with the responsibility to listen to other views. The freedom to protest comes with the responsibility to do so peacefully and respectfully. All rights come with the responsibility to protect them for future generations.

    Yesterday’s protesters made sure that next time it will be harder for people to enjoy the right to protest in Brighton because citizens will be sceptical, scared, cynical… and rightfully so. That’s why the mischief was entirely selfish.

  6. Adrian says:

    Whilst the police rightly should get a bad rap for inappropriate response to peaceful protest, I think the protesters are kidding themselves if they don’t incite trouble. Whilst it’s no excuse for the police, I think many of the “protest in balaclavas” crowd is doing a great job at creating an atmosphere where the police are bound to let the worst come out. And it builds up year after year, until the police expect trouble and it creates a hostile atmosphere where social break down occurs on all sides.

    Whilst you may have the right to protests, you don’t have the right to vandalise and destroy property. Nor intimidate. Nor obstruct. This applies to the protesters too.

    Personally I think if you can’t make your argument without yelling, it’s a weak argument. If you have to destroy property too, you don’t really have any argument to make. You’re just a vandal.

  7. Mike says:

    I would just like to clear up a few issues regarding the protest. I was on the march and although the police may have seemed calm in the centre of town when we started heading out of town they were much more keen on their batons. The protest was largely good natured and many local young people joined in.

    If the police had allowed the marchs progression we would have been out of the town very quickly causing minimal issues. The people dancing on the store at the pier at the end of the day were mostly local kids. We took precautions in regards to the public, for example, telling everyone to go around the childrens park rather than through it. The police were outnumbered but continually blocked routes rather than minimise disorder.

    I feel the protest was proportionate given the fact the EDO factory makes weapons delivery systems to be used in illegal wars and McDonalds owns 16,000 shares in EDO. A million people or more marched in London against the war in Iraq, but it went ahead. Complying with the powers that be leaves your cause ignored; doing the opposite gets you negative publicity but you have to get the issue out somehow. If you think we got it wrong, my challenge to you is to get out on the streets and show us how its done.

  8. dw says:

    Mike,

    Thanks for your considered and eloquent comment: it’s a breath of fresh air.

    It may surprise you to learn that I’m sympathetic to your views and also concerned about EDO. This city needs to know what’s going on in its (few) factories.

    That said, even if there were police ‘keen on their batons’ that doesn’t excuse the fact that the organising group ‘Smash EDO’ refused to cooperate with the people of Brighton, via the police, in advance of this unpeaceful demo. I think we can be honest in agreeing that this was a group that was totally in favour of ‘mischief’.

    Mike, there was an opportunity to bring in the moderates like me. A lawful march, a party, a carnival, that celebrated peace would have been a great event. There is so much support for ideas like that in this city.

    But when protest leaders will not negotitate, cooperate, when leading protestors wear masks and balaclavas, when throwing bricks is acceptable (I don’t care how many shares anyone holds): count me out. There is no excuse for this violence.

    How should it be done? The London march vs the Iraq war. The biggest political march in British history. Did we make our point? Yes, we did.

    Best, dw

  9. lindsey ingham says:

    I was at this protest, I went as a peaceful protester. I have a particular interest in protest academically as well. The truth I think is that some protesters behaved very badly (rocking police vans etc.)and the police then over responded; we were chased around Brighton all afternoon when all we wanted to do was march and spread the word. The chaos that ensued was not what most people desired, not the protesters, not the police and no the spectating public.
    I don’t think Bank Holiday trade would have been too badly affected because the weather was poor, the protest wasn’t so well advertised as to have put off potential visitors from elsewhere and the town was quite all day regardless of the fact that it was bank holiday or that the Brighton festival was happening(outside of the protest)
    Things could have been handled so much better by everyone. I didn’t see any of the police ‘grinning like thugs’ but I did see a lot of heavy handed and clumsy mishandling of situations. To keep the peace you need to uphold the laws and set an example…
    It is all too easy to claim that the police were thugs and the protesters are thugs but it is a bit more complicated than all that, I would like further thought on this subject in order to prevent incidences like the police storm of the climate camp at G20; we need to break down some of those stereotypes and think beyond taking sides.
    It was sad to see that a few angry anti-militarists decided to start a war on the streets of Brighton that day. We are all working to maintain our right to protest and it is actions such as those that make that struggle all the harder.

  10. anarchist says:

    you bunch of fucking liberals make me sick.

    fuck off and kill yourself, all of you

  11. dw says:

    Dear Anarchist,

    Thanks for that erudite, incisive and well made point. Best giggle I’ve had in a while.

    Yours, liberally…

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