*update* This post is not a direct criticism of the Bristol demo at which the photo I’ve used was taken. This is a criticism of behaviour demonstrated in the photo shown. You can see a very similar photo here. I understand that the people blocking the signs in the photos in the post below and linked to above were a small group calling themselves “anarchists” who joined the main organised protest. I understand the main counter-SPUC protest was held much like the Bath one that I organised, the Bristol group are pictured here. I hoped it would be clear that I wasn’t criticising those who took part in the main, peaceful protest as suggested in the comments to this post by those who attended it, but that I was in fact criticisng the behaviour of the few pictured who were attempting the censor the SPUC members in the photos made available online. As I was not at the protest I can only go by the impression I get from the photos and what was written about it.
This reminds me of the London anti-cuts demonstrations where those who rioted and broke windows were photographed and the focus of media coverage, but those who remained peaceful got little attention. This is the problem when people behave like the “anarchist” group who joined the main Bristol Counter-SPUC demo. They taint the image of a whole group even though they don’t represent them.
I also don’t believe that the group who referred to themselves as ‘Anarchists’ represent anarchists as a whole, either.
I’ve just read a really interesting blog post by Jen McCreight in which she Liveblogged a talk by Abby Johnson called ‘do women have too many rights?’ at the University of Washington, sponsored by Students for Life of America and the Catholic Newman Center. Throughout the talk Johnson promoted nonsense ideas that Jen touches upon in her blog post, however the main theme throughout the post is about how pro-choice protesters were disruptive throughout the talk.
Jen sums her post up by saying:
Look, I consider myself a firebrand. I don’t mince words or hold back. But the people screaming in the back weren’t firebrands…they were obnoxious and accomplished nothing. Did screaming the whole time change any minds? I wish she would have been able to give her dumb talk, then people could have asked her damning questions during the Q&A. But instead it just turned into a giant clusterfuck. I’m actually more angry at the pro-choicers than Abby right now. Blargh.
This is a problem. A big problem.
When I organised the Bath counter SPUC demo recently the aim was to be peaceful and to be an opposing voice. At the end of both our protest and the SPUC one people from SPUC came over and spoke to us and even though what they had to say was disturbing I felt glad that they felt they could come and chat. When one of our protesters rather naughtily stood with the SPUC group with a banner that read ‘right wing nutters against women’* the SPUC people didn’t kick him out or scream at him or try to block his sign. They let him stand there saying what he had to say even though it was rude.
However in blog posts about other counter-SPUC demonstrations, I’ve read about and seen photos of pro-choice activists who stood in front of the SPUC demonstrators and tried to cover up their signs as can be seen in the link provided at the top of this post.
I think this is an outrageous and disturbing form of attempted censorship. It is just obnoxious and completely gives across the wrong message to everybody observing the separate demonstrations. I am pro-choice, I don’t like the messages that SPUC deliver in their demonstrations, but I will let them deliver those messages. The best way to tackle such nonsense is to let it speak for itself and to then counter it. To show misinformation for what it is.
If the SPUC protesters had used their placards to try and obstruct those of the pro-choice demonstrators I am sure that we would have heard uproar about it. As far as I know, nobody from SPUC did that. Isn’t it embarrassing to know that those who present misinformation, who try to block the rights of women to do what they want with their bodies, were in these instances better behaved than those who opposes them?
*I think the ‘Right Wing nutters against women’ sign was inaccurate because I do not believe that all of those present at the SPUC demo were right wing, or nutters. Sweeping generalisations are dangerous for either side of a debate. Stick to proven facts and you’ll do fine.