Political protests give individuals a voice. They provide the opportunity for members of the public to use a multitude of methods to express dissatisfaction with the status quo. However, when these protests disrupt everyday life and/or result in violence, does that give cause for them to be banned?
In Australia, Scott Morrison is considering passing a law to limit free speech, to target climate groups such as Extinction Rebellion. Climate groups have become more prolific in Australia and around the world as they extend their actions in attempts to create legislative change. Recently, the busy streets of Brisbane were blockaded by protests, leaving the city in gridlock and frustrating the general public. If a law is passed by the government to limit the movement of protests, it will threaten the rights of individuals. Protests are essential to society and must be maintained, however; I would challenge Mr Morrison to adopt an approach of compromise towards the protestors rather than condemnation.
What if the protests involve violence? For current protester leaders, to encourage violence would be both morally unjustified and a serious tactical mistake as support could easily sway towards to government. It could help legitimise harsher methods by security forces in response. Violence against protests by armed forces creates a difficult decision. No protest is ever going to be able to defeat an armed force but standing defenceless also ceases to solve any problem. In this case, I don’t believe that entering into a protest is the right option. If your goal is to persuade the public and increase support for reform, any type of armed conflict will any exacerbate the tension and lead to an undesirable resolution. This is where political protests should not be banned, but lobby groups should look to other mediums to generate support.
Political protests are vital to the functioning of society and should remain legal. If politicians are displeased with the actions of protestors, their response should focus upon compromise rather than threats. Politicians must also remember that the protests have a purpose. Often, they use the useless details such as one small act of violence to distract from the main aim of the protest. If you want the protests to stop, listen to them.
Martin Luther King stated, “He who accepts evil without protesting against it, is really cooperating with it”.
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