Over the 7th, and 8th of July, the G20 summit was hosted by, Angela Merkel, in Hamburg. Germany’s second largest city. The event highlighted, amongst other things, Trump’s severe alienation from other world leaders. Although, his stalking bloated mad clown act trailed through news reports, the main highlight was the anti-capitalist protestors which swarmed the city.
They titled their extravaganza: Welcome to Hell. It was the sort of civil disobedience which stiffens your limbs. Though, the demonstrations saw several peaceful acts of descent throughout the week, including an impressive public rave on the harbour, and mass occupation of the streets – blocking the roads, and disrupting diplomatic meetings. Unfortunately, there were also acts of violence leading up to the summits opening.
Violent clashes occurred between police, and reportedly up to 1,000 anarchists, on Thursday, before the Friday opening. In this confrontation, 75 Police officers were reportedly injured.
There were also reports of unprovoked police brutality. On Tuesday, a crowd of youths were publicly drinking near the FC St Pauli’s football stadium, before police dispersed them with water cannons, around 11pm.
As we make our way toward the final years of this decade, it would appear acts of political demonstration are on the rise. Perhaps, becoming more frequent than ever before in my short life. These events of civil disobedience, are growingly distinctive. Some are marked with unfortunate destruction, harm and injury. While others remain peaceful, powerful and productive.
Could we be on the precipice of a new era of global political engagement? Something only akin, to the mid-century rush towards progressive ideals, of the sixties?
The global women’s marches earlier this year, saw 673 protests take place worldwide, with up to five million participants. Yet, only the day before this colossal movement engulfed the planet, the streets of Washington DC, were filled with small outbreaks of anarchy.
l recall watching a live stream of DC, on the day of Trump’s inauguration. There was a small crowd gathered around a fire, which had been compiled of trash cans and timber in the centre of the street. One young man stood in front of the growing flames, facing the crowd of onlookers – many of which were journalists – and began to scream, something along the lines of:
“Stop feeding the fire. This is my city. Stop feeding the fire, do not destroy my city.”
It would appear, there is still no principal methodology to achieving a non-destructive event of protest. The ideals of the sixties came crumbling down, in the face of a growing intolerance to civil disobedience, by leading nations.
The Kent State University shootings of 1970, represented a change in the discourse between civilians and law enforcement, in the United Sates. The Bloody Sunday Events of 1972, in Derby, Northern Ireland, is yet another example of unjust brutality directed at civilians, in the beginning of a turbulent decade.
Albeit, today’s modern world is still undoubtedly afflicted by the same plague of heavy handed state power. Events in the beginning of 2014, in the Ukraine, saw police attack peaceful student protesters in a similar act of state aggression towards political demonstration. A succession of events over the following five days, birthed the beginning of a revolution, and a painful and destructive ongoing war.
In 2011, The Occupy movement, saw both heavy handed state policing, and self-proclaiming anarchists; resulting in violent scenes across nine global cities. There were reports of mass ruination, and considerable draining of government resources. Amongst, an achievement of somewhat pioneering a new era of political engagement, utilising the platform of social media.
The virality of The Occupy movement, and its strong presence on social media inspired acts of defiance in unlikely places. In 2014, the Hong Kong, Scholarism movement notably built their base on social media. And, further borrowed from Occupy, by implementing similar principles of non-confrontational peaceful protest; and stripping them down to their most innocent forms. Resulting in an unrivalled display of youthful determination to elicit immediate action and change, for their futures.
The spectacle of these events often inundates newsfeeds. Like this month’s Welcome to Hell protests, the Black Lives Matter movement has been shrouded in controversy since its conception. The movements narrative, is relentlessly portrayed in contrasting lights across the political spectrum. Propagating undue fear, and disdain from the state, and disengaged citizens alike.
Is it possible for our current enthusiasm for political demonstration, enacted via civil disobedience to bring upon real change? How can we focus our disenchantment, to prevent the provocation of violence, and destruction? Could we circumvent law and order rhetoric from returning to our leaders’ disquisitions, in response to our growing political consciousness? If so, how do we go about achieving this, and from where do we draw the inspiration?
Activism inhabits endless forms, for endless means. Leaving it unlikely we should ever find a steadfast principal methodology, for achieving successfully non-violent events of civil disobedience. Begging the question: is this the best method to engage with democracy in our modern world? Could we have made an oversight, as to what powers we already possess through the utility modern technology? Or, perhaps, boots on the ground people power, is still the optimal system for enabling political progress? If so, we may forever be held to the whims of the primitive fear we hold for our own kind; civilians, and states alike.