Protest as public nuisance

Replied to Police accused of ‘alarming’ attack on right to protest after anti-monarchist arrested by Daniel Boffey (The Guardian)

The Metropolitan police later said a total of 52 arrests had been made for affray, public order offences, breach of the peace and conspiracy to cause a public nuisance around the coronation.

Yasmine Ahmed, the UK director of Human Rights Watch, condemned the arrests. “The reports of people being arrested for peacefully protesting [against] the coronation are incredibly alarming. This is something you would expect to see in Moscow, not London. Peaceful protests allow individuals to hold those in power to account, something the UK government seems increasingly averse to,” she said.

Nuisance is used to suppress protest the way niceness is used to suppress and avoid addressing complaints of racism and sexism.

The past Queen deployed a persona of niceness to soften the image and harms of the monarchy (not necessarily intentionally, I don’t know much about her). I can only hope that as Charles, lacking the charisma of the Queen, tries to exact his “due” and impose an air of “civility” by quashing dissent, more and more people will become disillusioned with the monarchy.

America may not have a monarchy, but the same anti-protest tactics apply here. Positioning disruption of normalcy as the criminal or undesirable behavior deflects from whatever is being protested. Nuisance transforms victim to villain; union strikes are blamed for delays rather than prevaricating corporations who refuse to address worker complaints. Framing protest as nuisance diffuses protestors’ main power — getting attention for systemic issues through disruption of the status quo — by controlling the narrative of protest as harmful to the general population.

“And they busted me for disturbing the almighty peace.”

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at She/her.

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