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.
by Tesni Clare
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.
by Tesni Clare
For those who don’t know – and there are many who don’t, because the press have been worryingly silent on the matter until recently – there are a number of small, self-organised communities of activists living in tents and treehouses between London and Birmingham, along the proposed route of high speed railway HS2. The railway, and the protest camps, thread through some of this country’s last remaining pockets of ancient broadleaf woodland. Whilst many have been evicted, some camps have been there for over a year.
Ever since Edward Snowden, WikiLeaks and The Guardian’s revelations about state surveillance and data gathering were largely greeted with indifference by the public, governments across the globe have continued to find ways to watch and obtain information about their citizens. Yet increasingly it is the actions taken by these governments in response to healthy criticism and protest and the sinister erosion of human rights that should strike a worrying chord in each and every person.
The narrative of free speech has become increasingly complicated. It would be easy to assume that only teenagers and the most reactionary bigots would be likely to claim their right to free speech had been violated after having their views disagreed with, protested against, or denied a prestigious platform. But as this misunderstanding was repeated time and time again — cries of censorship followed UEA union shops decision to stop buying a newspaper it couldn’t even sell, legitimate protest was written off as silencing and oppression — it seems to have seeped in to the public consciousness.
Today, even the most critical thinkers seem to forget that the right to free speech doesn’t grant them the right to say whatever they like, wherever they like, and to be granted whichever platform they consider themselves worthy of. I have no right to walk in to my local KFC and preach vegetarianism on their property, just as I have no right to claim I am being silenced because The Guardian refused to publish this article.