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Comment: Protesting is part of being Mancunian – but respect others

1 comment

Tony Lloyd

This opinion piece by Tony Lloyd appeared in the Manchester Evening News on on Tuesday 5 August 2014.

No matter what our views are on the Middle East, the only human reaction to what we see nightly on our television screens from Gaza is one of horror.

The news that an aid worker with links to Manchester has died in the conflict brings this even closer to home.

We will all be shocked that someone who went out to the Middle East to make life better for people there has himself become a victim and our sympathies are with his family.

It is inevitable that people here in Greater Manchester want to make their voices heard about what is happening in Gaza.

I strongly believe in the right to protest. Protest, whether it is about a local, national or international issue, has the potential to bring about change and is a fundamental right for each and every one of us in our free and open society.

Protest about international issues, such as the current conflict, sends out distinct messages both at home and abroad. At home, protest demonstrates to government that the public care about something – and expect their elected representatives to take action.

Abroad, it sends a message of empathy and solidarity.

Over the past few weeks we have seen a number of protests in Greater Manchester about the conflict in Gaza.

Most of these have been focused in Manchester city centre, on King Street and Market Street. At the weekend, the protest on King Street spilled over on to Deansgate, blocking the city’s main thoroughfare for a time.

Protest is part of Manchester’s DNA.

 We have never been afraid to stand up and be counted, from the Suffragette and anti-slavery movements in the 19th Century, to the more recent marches against war abroad and unfairness at home.

Protest is a golden thread that runs through the fabric of Manchester. It is part of what it means to be Mancunian and, as a proud Mancunian, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

But if protest is to be effective, it must be done in the appropriate way.

We live in a free, open, democratic and tolerant country.

You do not need to break the law in our country to take a stand against injustice. Protest should be lawful, and it should be peaceful.

 And it should be respectful.

When protest sets individual against individual and community against community it oversteps a boundary. There can be no role for either anti-Semitism or Islamophobia in our society.

Protest should also recognise the rights of other people, whether they disagree or are not involved, such as those who are just using the city centre or those who work in its businesses. I have spoken to shop workers on King Street who feel intimidated by the two sides protesting in what many consider to be an aggressive and divisive way.

This cannot be right.

Protest should never be about creating division and fear – that goes against our city’s values and is counter-productive.

So make your point, exercise your right to demonstrate, send that message out. But be lawful, be peaceful and protest with respect. That’s the most effective way of making sure your voice is heard.

1 comment

Saira Qureshi

Dear Mr Lloyd,
I absolutely agree with your stand on an individuals right to protest. As a British citizen who has lived peacefully in this amazing city of Manchester for almost a quarter of a century I have excercised my right to protest on a nbet of issues. I have been protesting against the horrendous, barbaric, inhumane slaughter of innocent men, women and children in Gaza from the beginning of this ‘Operation protective edge’
The protests were peaceful and even dare I say it on occasion good humoured. However since the letter presented by Mr Richard Leese to the full council suggested that we did not want a return to 1930’s Germany, I have faced islamphobia and racism by passets by who assume that I am a Nazi amd accuse me of being anti semetic, (Incidentally as a pro-rights for Palestinians protester, is curious as Palestiniams too are Semites). Also the organisers of the protests have been sensitive to the other businesses on King Street and have done their level best to keep protesters calm and not react to provocation from the Zionist who were carrying banners and distributing leaflets comparing this protest with activities of the Nazis in 1930’s Germany. I would rather be home be in the comfort of my home tham on the streets of manchester protesting, just as the people of Gaza would rather be nuturing their children in the safety of their homes. Desperate times call for desperate measures and these are most certainly desperate times so as members of the human race we should be ready to expect a little discomfort don’t you think. As far as the point Mr Leese made about the need for more ‘robust’ policing, there was never any problem as the police were doing a perfectly good job, engaging with the protesters who compliant with any request made by the police of them. His suggestion thst our police was in need of help totally undermined their hard earned good relationship with the protesters. I hope that you will take up my concerns and viewpoint as a protester who would never tolerate abuse towards anybody but has on the other hand felt alarmed and distressed by the reaction of some that has been provoked by Zionist propaganda leaflets that suggest that I am on the side of Anti-semetic Nazis.
Kind regards.

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