** Trigger warning – this article contains references to bullying, sexual assault, racism and suicide **
We live in a society which is becoming more divided. The reality is that the venim that spews out towards a group or individual from behind a keyboard now seems to be spilling onto the streets. The xenophobic nature of Brexit has given people who, previously might have tempered their comments in public, permission to bully people who hold different views to themselves, in the open.
Whilst my focus is on protest situations, it has to be noted that there is a direct link between the injustice protesters often face, the public narrative and what we allow to become our accepted norms. We encourage our children to speak out about bullies at school so why, as adults, do we feel awkward about doing so?
This week there have been some interesting developments reported in the news.
Environmental campaigner, Greta Thunberg, attended the #YouthStrike4Climate rally in Bristol on 28 February. The inappropriate and vile response by some on social media was called out by the Bristol Post who named and shamed some of the perpetrators. Well done to the publication for doing so. Others have created a cartoon about this young girl being sexually assaulted, the cartoon carries the logo of a Canadian oil company. Disgusting -even more so that the authorities have decided not to prosecute its creator!
Since Brexit, racism is on the rise, on the streets, the sports field and even at work, with an increase being reported across all ethnic minority groups. Even the outbreak of the coronavirus appears to be an excuse!
If bullying is accepted as the norm at the highest level then wrong doing will flow through to all levels of society without the clout to address it properly. To see Sir Philip Rutnam, from the Home Office, make a stand against bullying by his boss on the evening news, boldly stating he was taking action against the Government for constructive dismissal, was a revelation. This is a man showing courage and leading by example.
Similarly, if hatred, incitement and trolling isn’t addressed effectively at the beginning of a protest and it embeds itself as the accepted culture then an “anything goes” attitude by the authorities quickly does too. WE must challenge disproportionate behaviours – by the authories and others. WE must stand up to the bullies we meet. WE must address the trolling and call it out. WE are our society and, collectively, WE can change the narrative.
Our future may be uncertain, but one thing is fact – we face more civil disobedience and dissent as our world changes and we challenge the treats to our very survival. In my opinion, if we don’t challenge it now we are doing a disservice to those who rise up next. #demandprotestjustice
If you have been effected by any of the content of this article, help can be sought in a number of ways:
* Call them out – speak up and don’t accept violence, aggression and hatred to be the norm
* Stand with a person and start a conversation, don’t acknowledge the person who is making racist comments
* Report hate to the social media provider
* Report violence, aggression, racism, hatred etc to the police – even if it is the police who are doing it (Protest Justice can support you in complaining about police behaviour, particularly in a protest setting)
* Speak/write to your MP
* Report your protest related experience to www.protestjustice.org
If you can’t do any of these things yourself, tell someone who can.