Last month Italian Prime Minister and former European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, took his first trip abroad since he assumed office. He chose to visit Libya, and met with Libyan president Abdel Hamid Mohamed Dbeibeh to discuss the countries’ economic ties and cooperation on tackling irregular immigration. During his visit, Draghi congratulated the Libyan government on their work over recent years in stemming the movement of migrants who leave Libya’s coast in hope of finding refuge in Europe.
The most important intergovernmental organisation of the last year, the World Health Organisation, defines violence as:
the intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment, or deprivation.
The media in this country have used the terms ‘violence’ and ‘violent’ to categorise the recent civil disruption surrounding the Kill The Bill protests. Norwich’s recent protests couldn’t be called ‘violent’ by any stretch of the imagination, but there have still been reactionary responses attempting to write off their importance, including from the EDP. However in the case of places like Bristol, the word ‘violence’ has been openly used against protestors by the media and influential reactionary figures.
While Archant published clickbait headlines in the EDP and Norwich Evening News that chose to spotlight the pink chalk ‘vandalism’ of a war memorial, Saturday’s Kill the Bill protest in Norwich city centre was in fact a peaceful display of solidarity, and an empowering antidote to the violence that protesters elsewhere in the country have been subjected to. In Bristol, boards reading ‘People Over Property‘ now surround the former plinth of the Edward Colston statue, and act as a visual reminder of both the police and the media establishment’s skewed priorities when it comes to covering protests. Chalk gets washed away with a spell of wet weather. Authoritarian bills don’t.
In recent years, Italy has undergone enormous internal change as a result of mass immigration from sub-Saharan African countries. The situation has been exploited and manipulated from every angle by the Italian media, politicians and organised crime gangs, fostering hostility towards migrant labourers as well as fuelling their exploitation. Right-wing political elites are adept at harnessing the power of social media to influence the masses; but this is a tactic that needn’t be irreplicable for social justice movements and activists on the Left, too.
Sunday’s events in Bristol have made headlines. Predictably, however, mainstream media has fallen into the trope of shortsighted reporting, indulging in simplistic, one-sided narratives of protestors as ‘mobs of animals’ who ‘attacked’ and ‘badly injured’ police officers. Whilst they make good headlines, these intentionally inflammatory discourses, alongside powerful images of burning vans, serve to eclipse the bigger story.
On March third, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced his annual budget for 2021. As you would expect from a modern Conservative government, the budget showed an unwillingness to borrow and spend more than a moderate amount, despite the continuing economic pressures posed by the pandemic, and reaffirmed the government’s commitment to benefitting their rich donors while denying the most basic of help to the victims of years of Tory austerity. Sunak is spending just enough pocket change to maintain the appearance that the government isn’t just doing the bare minimum during the pandemic, but, typically, even this amounts to high praise from the largely right-wing mainstream media.
Norwich City’s glossy matchday programme for their home match against Stoke on February 13th is emblazoned with the face of fan favourite winger, Onel Hernández. Hernández, a famously bubbly and humorous character who has played for the Canaries since the beginning of the 2018/19 season, made a late substitute appearance against Stoke during Norwich’s 4-1 win. On this occasion it was a brief outing for the programme cover star – but recent developments in Hernández’s career are much more significant than this match might suggest.
Foreground, left: a woman holding a sickle in one hand and a large red flag in the other, and wearing a green scarf over a yellow khadi; behind her, a man in a light orange khadi, a light blue turban, a beard, and raising his fist; in front of her are three ears of corn growing out of green stalks.
Background, center to right: two red farming tractors drawn as if moving up a slight incline, towards the right; one is partially behind the two human figures, and bears a small red flag; the other is fully visible, and bears a small green flag.
Above the two tractors is the text: Unite against corporate slavery of farmers.
When activists look back to the movement that arose to challenge the introduction of the Poll Tax, they will see it as one of ordinary people taking on the establishment and coming out victorious. Whilst the rioting in Trafalgar Square and similar confrontations between police and protestors often takes centre stage in our collective memory of this period, there is the risk of overlooking the grassroots and community led resistance that fought every step of the way during the Poll Tax’s introduction – the resistance of the Anti-Poll Tax Unions.