Or at least so I thought, because it turns out that criminally violating other people's rights, is actually the purest form of protest. According to some people anyway.
The home of misunderstanding things, the Guardian, has had a couple of examples of this. Mona Eltahawy's believes that the right to protest means the right to vandalise and deface posters legally put up by people she disagree with. Because as she says she supports free speech, but free speech includes the right to be free of opposing speech.
Today Nina Power writes about the twit who disrupted the University Boat Race this year, and who has just been sentenced to six months in prison:
Trenton Oldfield, who disrupted the annual Oxford-Cambridge Boat Race in April this year to protest against inequality, was sentenced to six months in jail for the offence of "public nuisance". Although the race was restarted 25 minutes later, Judge Molyneux made it clear that Trenton had disrupted the smooth running of things, and for that he must go to jail: "Thousands of people had lined the banks of the river to enjoy a sporting competition. Many more were watching at home on live television." The message is blunt: if it's on TV and aristocrats are involved, then the state can deprive you of your liberty for as long as it likes.
In a period where many people have died following benefit cuts, Oldfield's protest against elitism and inequality is timely and symbolic.
The working class hero who making the protest against elitism is a privately educated Australian called Trenton who used a grant from the Arts Council to buy himself a flat and has as his lawyer the socialist son of privilege Matt Foot* (son of Paul Foot).
Oldfield's sentence is clearly designed to deter others from protesting, and there is evidence that the use of the charge of public nuisance (which carries a maximum sentence of life) was upgraded under government pressure and precisely because of the varied spectacles of 2012.Public nuisance is of course what the idiot who threw a coin on the track at the Olympic 100m final was charged with. It seems to be used when someone is being a nuisance, to the general public. I don't recall Guardian editorials in support of the defrocked Irish priest who disrupted the British Grand Prix in 2003 when he was jailed, even though he was also protesting against something or other.
Nina Power continues:
So who, in the end, is the public on behalf of whom Oldfield is being punished?In this particular case it is the spectators and viewers who wanted to see the boat race rather than the Trenton Show. And the rowers whose event was disrupted.
Is it the public sector workers who will march in their thousands tomorrow against austerity, or is it the "public" represented by the judgeEr neither, it is the public who wanted to watch an event, this may include people from different political persuasions.
What the likes of Mona Eltahawy and especially Nina Power represent is narcissism- what they believe is so important that the rights of others are simply pale before them. In the case of Power it doesn't even matter if the lesser beings being attacked have only the most tenuous connection to whatever is being protested against, they should still have their apolitical event disrupted for some spoiled brat's gratification.
* Matt Foot specialises in defending people who use aggressive protests to violate others' rights. He defended the idiot who threw the fire extinguisher off the top of Millbank Tower and other idiots who who went to Italy to riot against something or other.