Student protest needs a rethink

I won’t rehash my previous arguments about protest: you can find them here easily in the “handling protest” category. Now’s the time to redefine the right to protest.

The three recent student protests reinforce my irritation with the assumption that a generalised right to protest means that the police have to facilitate people’s demands to protest pretty much whenever and wherever and whatever they choose.

Haven’t we now reached the point when students’ unions and the police ought to agree that the next big protest be in, say, Hyde Park and that it be clearly stated that any other protest activity will be regarded as sanctioned neither by the police nor the students’ leaders?

More generally isn’t it time that commentators, the media, Parliament and the Government start to say that a right to protest does not mean a right to shut down the government (come to that, any) quarter of London except on the strictest terms?   

I can see the point in letting young people let off steam, and being almost dangerously permissive in that regard. But this new evolution in the protest game needs heading off before it gets really serious.


A bit like them fellows in the Orange Aprons with their 1000 marches in Glasgow every year. Or is that a traditional right never quite sure all I know is it doesn't do much for religious tolerance.

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Publication date

10 December 2010