Tom Ellis TOM ELLIS

The purpose of demonstrations

COMMENT

TAGS: Protest, Strike

The right to strike is sacrosanct. It is an accomplishment of the labor movement and one of the most important democratic means that employees possess to exert pressure for their demands to be met. For strikes, protests and all sorts of marches with demands to be effective, broad social support is needed, as it increases the political pressure on the government to respond to those demands.

The way in which protest marches are carried out today, especially in the center of the capital, certainly does not serve that purpose. On the contrary, it usually generates more opposition than support for the workers’ cause. People whose lives are disrupted by industrial action – from the shopkeepers who lose out on revenues because consumers are denied access to their wares to the employees who are delayed as they try to get to work and may have to face consequences – end up having no sympathy for the protesters’ demands.

The idea to allow protesters to use only one street lane for relatively small rallies, and only sidewalks in even smaller ones, is based on the experience of other countries. Obviously, in massive demonstrations, large marches and nationwide strikes this solution will not work. However, even in these cases, proper planning could enable others to go about their day more easily and hence would not hinder popular support for the demands of striking workers, therefore increasing the pressure on the government to address the demands made.

Conditions today are ripe for some kind of change in this situation that does not serve the interests of the demonstrating employees, students and others. The fewer problems the rest of the citizens face, the greater the likelihood that they will express more sympathy for the demands of the demonstrators.

In that sense, the question for everyone – primarily rally organizers – is what the ultimate goal of their protest is. If it is to make life difficult for their fellow citizens, then let them continue to protest as they do now. If, on the contrary, their aim is to raise awareness among the rest of society about their demands and to increase pressure on the government, they should highlight and promote any injustices they endure and any demands they have, but not at the expense of everyone else.

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