The art of the peaceful protest…

YET another anniversary, 25 years on from the Drumcree/The Garvaghy Road dispute which made headlines the world over. But there is a different ‘orange’ protest in the news that has caught my eye. That would be the ongoing ‘JUST STOP OIL’ campaign.

On Saturday  a member of the public approached George Osborne and Thea Rogers as they emerged from their wedding and showered the newlyweds in orange confetti from a Union flag paper bag. Naturally, given the fact George Osborne is a former Chancellor and there were notable public figures in attendance, this was a bold move. It is still unclear if the campaign were behind the ‘confetti-ing’ but the group did later tweet, “You look good in orange, George Osborne — congratulations to the newlyweds.”

It got me wondering if we are witnessing the future of protests. I’m all for a person’s right to protest but surely stalking a person’s wedding is a bit much? Are there no boundaries between a personal and profession life anymore? By all means confetti him 9-5, but on his wedding day?

It is encouraging though, that a lone eco-warrior can, it seems, make just as many waves as a crowd. With the right target, at the right occasion, this lady managed to make headlines and cause no real harm. But is it going to win people over to their cause? People, I imagine, will be much happier if it is not their lives interrupted, much rather a politician’s. I would imagine this would be much more popular than the audacious interruptions at sporting events.

This year, the Orange Order applied for a 3,000-person march on the Garvaghy Road – a larger-than-normal application to mark the 25th anniversary. The history here being that in 1998, the newly established Parades Commission ruled the Orange Order should not march down Portadown’s Garvaghy Road on the end leg of its annual march from Drumcree Church. About 1,000 police and 1,000 soldiers were deployed to enforce this decision. Between Saturday 4 July and Tuesday 14 July 1998, there were more than 2,500 public order incidents recorded, according to RUC statistics in an Ulster University archive.

This year’s anniversary application was also knocked back by the Parades Commission. This is a legacy issue now and if a protest is to follow this decision or any others over the coming ‘Orange season’, I for one would be much happier with a lone orange man tipping a handful of orange confetti in the air, rather than a misguided follower rocking up with harmful missiles including petrol bombs.

Protests in our little corner of the world have always cascaded into violence. Why have we never learned the art of the peaceful protest?

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