Protest,terrorism and democracy
Protest is legitimate in a democracy
Protests, terrorism and democracy
Protest is legitimate in a democracy.
Democracy allows for dissent and allows the expression of dissent, but when the protests turn violent, against people, police or property; have they become acts of terrorism? Terrorism is not to be tolerated in democracy, since it aims to forcibly overturn democratic governance.
This last sentence may cause some to object but if a democratically elected government has issued laws, started actions or issued a rule, which a terrorist seeks to overturn by acts of violence, the statement is true.
Protesters and terrorists are getting harder to tell apart. This is harming even the most worthy of protest movements. It is counter productive if the real aim is changing public opinion by peaceful means. If the object is to forcibly change public opinion then the perpetrators and organizers are terrorists.
People who think that sending a bomb to another humans is a justified method for getting the recipients to change their views, but who also think that killing a chicken to eat is wrong; must have a very different set of values from the majority of people.
This same difference in values, enables them to fool themselves into thinking they believe in democracy while seeking to impose their own minority views on the majority.
People who deliberately seek to force change against the will of the majority are behaving as fascists do. Forcing the majority to change behavior to that desired by a minority, is most definitely not democracy at work. In a democracy the majority are right and their will prevails. This is a definition of democracy.
Protests that are aimed at disrupting the normal activities of law abiding citizens, are getting dangerously near that invisible line between protest and terrorism. While seeking to publicize a political point of view is a legitimate activity, forcing others to change their legal behavior is not. In some sense all protests are political, especially in a democracy. Since the objective is to get the governing body to change laws to meet the opinions and views of the protesters, the protests are all political. In the same definition all acts of terrorism are also political, since they are carried out in an attempt to change the laws governing the state. This simply shows the fine division that exists between protest and terrorism. The security forces in every nation know this and so the sensible option is to monitor and study all protests groups, knowing they can step into the terrorism definition, so very easily. It is no good groups complaining about security forces observing their activities. Any security force that failed to investigate a protest movement, is failing in its duty of care, it is failing to anticipate that small step over the line into acts of terrorism.
Many honest, rational and honorable, people take part in protests over global issues, such as animal rights, human rights or climate change. They have every right to their views and every right to make their views known. The problems occur when the activists within such protests, become allied to political idealists and they start to veer towards terrorism, while claiming the full support of those same honest rational people. The advocates of the extremes of political idealism, have the right to their views. They also have the right to stand for election and openly declare their extremist views while asking for electoral support. They have no right to use any form of force, coercion or intimidation, to achieve their chance to govern.
Just as one of the aims of terrorism is to provoke such draconian responses from the governing authorities, that the responses start to adversely impinge on the lives of the general public, and so make some of these members of the general public, rebel against their elected government. So also disruptive protests are aimed at forcing actions by security forces and authorities that are so stringent that they start to upset the general public. This in turn, is designed to weaken the democratic legitimacy of the governing authority. These objectives may have been obtainable in periods of history where education and information availability where restricted, but now in situations where over 90% of the public can both read and write and where at least 75% of that public has access to a great deal of opinion and information regarding any situation; it does not work. The tactic has become counter productive.