According to the Oxford dictionary, ‘protest’ is a statement or action expressing disapproval of or objection to something.
Protesting has been around since 1913 and described the march organised by Gandhi in regards to the restrictions inflicted on the Indian population of South Africa.
This term became more accepted throughout history as it was adapted by music and films, despite the political backlash it received. Academic Geoffrey Nunberg, found the first protest song which proved to be a huge hit was back in 1965, by Barry McGuire, “Eve of Destruction.” The lyrics used acted as an appeal for peace and understanding. Many radio stations refused to play this song on their stations arguing it breached the equal time provision however that didn’t stop this hit from reaching number one.
In 1982, the production of the first Rambo film used the term ‘protest’ however by this time people had accepted the term as just another name for a demonstration.
The largest protest to take place in the world was against the Iraq war in February 2003. Here a total of 3 million people gathered to show their anti-war support.
Protests act as form of communication for the public in a democracy to speak against decisions made by higher authorities, in attempt to hinder change by enforcing change to policies etc. Protests can take place in many different forms such as the Birmingham riots in 2011 which was the most extreme case of protesting in history due to the amount of violence involved and destruction caused to the city. Another form of protest is a strike such as teacher’s strike who are protesting for an increase in pay and student protests which involve marches around communities in regards to the vast increase in student fees.
According to Nunberg, protest is the only political action that power can’t engage in.
The question that arises from protests is whether they are effective in bringing about change? Yes, we know they get governments attention, but as a result of policies reviewed and have they ever been changed? I have lined up an interview with a protestor who will hopefully answer my questions. If you have any questions to contribute please do not hesitate to put them forward by Thursday 21st February 2013 and I will attempt to get them all answered.
The Bedroom Tax proposed by the government is “a further attack on our social security system and affordable housing” says Tom, a member of Birmingham Against the Cuts. The group, formed in 2010, has been opposing various cuts and austerity measures introduced by the government.
“It is another ill-thought-through move on the part of the Tory coalition, with so many exceptional circumstances that make this benefit cut unfair and unworkable.
“When the rooms that foster children sleep in and the rooms separated parents keep for visiting children are considered spare, it is clear that this charge will penalize people who are not under-occupying.”
He also opposes the idea of charging disabled people to live in housing that has been specially adapted to their need.
Birmingham Against The Cuts is a group formed of trade unions, service groups, user groups and campaign groups in Birmingham to oppose the cuts being made by the conservative/liberal democrat coalitions both nationally and locally.
“If there were enough smaller properties available then getting people to move from larger properties they don’t need any more makes sense.
“But this should be done through financial encouragement to move and not by forcing people to move out of the communities they have lived and worked in for decades.
“Forcing people to move from social housing to more expensive private rentals to escape the bedroom tax will see the housing benefit bill rise, not fall.”
Housing associations across the West Midlands have come together to help tenants and landlords avoid the Bedroom Tax.
Seven of the largest West Midlands local authorities and nine of the largest social housing providers have joined forces to become The West Midlands Making Best Use of Stock partnership (WMBUS), which will enable tenants to locate a property with the exact amount of bedrooms needed in order to help avoid the penalty.
Labour Councillor, John Cotton, Birmingham City Council Cabinet Member for Social Cohesion, backs the partnership vowing to help those affected by the policy as he openly attacked the new welfare reform, acknowledging the consequences that it will have upon Birmingham and working tenants on low income.
“It is unfair that hard working families are going to lose out and we need to explode the myth that only people that do not work receive housing benefit. Nationally five out of six families who receive housing benefit are in low paid work and I will do all I can to help families in Birmingham who have been put in this situation through no fault of their own.”
Image taken from Birmingham City Council
WMBUS aims to pool at least 150,000 homes to allow tenants easy access to properties within the region.
Diane Middleton, Chair of WMBUS understand the implications the policy will have on society and the housing associations,
“Welfare reform is going to have a massive impact on the housing sector and potentially a distressing effect on residents. We are taking a broad vision on how the industry can work together to share and mitigate both the responsibility and results of these changes.”