Vancouver's 2010 "riot": what leads to radical tactics?
Today I took part for a while in a march to try to being some attention to the tragedy that is the Canadian Seal Slaughter. When the march turned into a vandalism spree by kids in masks, we rolled up our banners and went home.
I don't see much point in destructive protests. They don't really convince anyone of anything, except that you're willing to break things to be heard.
But what I'm interested in is why people become destructive as a means of protest.
There are probably quite a few reasons why marches like this turn violent. One quite obvious one would be that it's fun. The rush of adrenaline is exciting. It's the same as doing anything physical and dangerous, like playing hockey or football.
Quite probably many of the people who knocked over newspaper boxes and smashed windows today did it because it was exciting. They may have felt like they were doing something and standing up against a greater power. Many of us have respect for the underdog who takes on the mighty, against all odds. It's what most action movies are based on, not to mention sports movies and even a whole lot of our favorite history stories.
It's important to note here that I am not trying to justify anyone's actions or excuse them. I feel strongly that we are all personally responsible for the choices we make. I have had trouble trying to discuss this issue because people appear to feel that I am justifying the protesters' actions, but I'm not.
Calling their actions "infantile" is counter-productive, I think, because it simply continues what I see as a real root cause of the violence: not being heard.
There is a huge difference between being allowed to speak and being listened to. We have a great deal of freedom to speak our mind here in Canada, but what we don't have as ordinary citizens is much of a way to ensure that we are heard.
From the local level to the federal level, politics dismisses a great range of perspectives and voices. We are allowed to send our petition to the government, we are allowed to speak at city council meetings, but we are not made to feel that what are saying is truly heard or considered.
It would be strange for protesters to risk arrest for such large amounts of property damage, so I would assume they are acting out of personal conviction (unless they were planted by the police or VANOC to instigate confrontation, which is somewhat doubtful, although possible).
They may have been trying to intimidate people into agreeing with them, but considering the scale of the Olympics I would more readily think that they were trying to get their message out, and chose tactics that would send a message to the Olympic sponsors and organizers that would be heard. If you want to reach the heads of corporations, what is more effective than a message that costs money?
Again, I don't agree with the tactics, and I have nothing to say about the goals or objectives of the protesters. What I am interested in here is seeing some real discussion of the reasons for such actions. How are we all complicit in the vandalism and threats of violence? How are we complicit in systems which let people speak but don't give them a real voice to be heard?
Here are some links to coverage of today's madness: