This post is by Stuart White, who blogs from time to time at Next Left.
I'm back from the March 26 demo. Kathy, my partner, came home a bit earlier to do an interview with Five Live. The interviewer's agenda was pretty typical of how many mainstream media outlets seem to have been presenting the demo today: he wanted Kathy to get into an argument with someone from UK Uncut about direct action and 'violence'. Turned out to be a total non-argument, since both Kathy and UK Uncut strongly support non-violent direct action.
Approaching 3.30pm, we saw the 'black bloc' march towards Oxford Circus. It was crystal clear what its intent was. Kathy and I, with our seven year-old, Isaac, in a wheelchair, hot footed it out of the area.
I can't construct a single semi-plausible argument for the kind of violent direct action they wish to engage in. It is exclusionary (we had to leave the area). It feeds a media narrative in an entirely predictable way that distracts from what is really at stake.
But let's stop and consider 'the media'. Nothing forces the media to focus, as much as it does, on the violent behaviour of a tiny minority. This is a choice. And in dealing with the media - for example, in launching a complaint to Sky or the BBC - we need to insist on what a profoundly disrespectful choice it is.
On Saturday, March 26, hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life got up at some unholy hour of the morning and made their way into London. Many came with home-made banners, with costumes, with music, and, in some cases, with entirely legitimate ideas for the kind of non-violent civil disobedience which, in my judgment, is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy.
So much creativity, constructive energy and - yes, let's acknowledge it - love. For people's concerns about the cuts are often grounded in a basic concern they have for their relatives or friends that is an expression of love.
So whenever any interviewer or journalist starts down the 'What about the violence?' line, let's respond as Kathy did on Five Live: Isn't it just downright disrespectful to the thousands upon thousands of protestors on today's march to focus on the silly actions of a minority and to fail to honour the creativity, energy and love of the overwhelming majority?
Why not ask us about where we have come from? About our fears and our loves and our hopes. About the banners and placards we've made or seen. About the people we've met for the first time on the demo and the conversations we've had with non-protestors on the tube or in the street. About the street theatre we saw or even, possibly, the speeches we've heard. About the many people we all know who couldn't be on the demo today, but whom we know support us and are with us in spirit.
Show us some respect. Why not honour who we really are and what we have done?