Monday, June 08, 2020

On the shaming of protestors

In the last few days I have read dozens, if not hundreds, of posts in newspaper comment streams and social media complaining about protesters. The argument is the same. We are not supposed to assemble in light of the current pandemic. So those who do gather for protest and demonstrations -- as they have in Dublin, Waterford, Limerick, and elsewhere around Ireland -- are violating the rules. Shame on them!

If you want evidence, merely wade into the cesspit that is the comments section of the Limerick Leader. (I will not provide a link nor drive revenue to their site.) Here you will find people parroting the racist line "All lives matter", calling protesters "trouble makers," "idiots," "stupid," etc.

Consider that the virus is here to stay. There is little chance for a vaccine, and even less chance that enough people will be vaccinated for it to matter. So, to say that people cannot protest now is the same as saying they will never again have the right to protest. No doubt this thought pleases many.

The truth is that distancing was observed at the protests in a way it isn't elsewhere. (Check out the photos from the Limerick gathering, for example.) Supermarkets apparently allow only a fixed number in their stores, but once inside people push up against you and employees stock shelves in crowded aisles. On a sunny weekend, people flock to the beach in violation of distance restrictions and geographical limits. People raised on an ideology of hyper-individualism think of themselves first.

While I have seen some complaints about these behaviours, they don't match the vitriol reserved for the protestors. Even though the marches for Black Lives Matter are not based on self-interest so much as mutual empathy and equality.

Another fact is that there are only about 800 cases of coronavirus in Ireland at the moment, and no new cases. The chance of encountering the virus in the wild is very small (though I can find no numbers for this). For many, the dangers due to institutionalised racism, and the compelling need to change this situation, is more important than the infinitesimal chance of catching a virus. In light of these facts, stigmatising protesters is unjustified.

It's no coincidence that the only people I see shaming protestors are white. These individuals need to examine their own privilege. This will only happen if they are forced to, by continuing  pressure for a better society.

Black Lives Matter
End Direct Provision

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