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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 November 2003, 16:33 GMT
The new seekers
The days when, if you felt really strongly about something, you could make your point by collecting a few signatures on a petition seem to be over. These days it takes something extra to get your protest noticed.

Forget David Blaine. The man currently causing traffic headaches at Tower Bridge as motorists slow down to get a good look is David Chick, a 36-year-old from Sussex dressed as Spiderman, who has come down from a crane where he had been protesting in favour of fathers' rights.

His protest follows that of his fellow campaigners, who staged a rooftop demo at the Royal Courts of Justice dressed as Batman and Robin.

Police anger with Mr Chick, who climbed to his vantage point on Friday, came to a head on Tuesday when the deputy chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Richard Barnes, said the extra policing cost of the protest was 10,000 a day.

"I would like [David Chick] to receive a bill afterwards. If we can charge David Blaine, let us charge him as well," he said.

David Chick, on his way up the crane at Tower Bridge
London mayor Ken Livingstone, a man with more than an eye for a bit of effective publicity, is not impressed, saying: "He is causing a huge inconvenience to Londoners and is not necessarily the role model one wants for one's children as they grow up - particularly since he also dresses in funny clothes."

But in his choice of dress, at least, Mr Chick has done something right, for it has given the media an easy way of identifying him, and a good photograph to use. His case has thus featured widely in the national papers and on television. After months of Mr Chick and his fellow campaigners trying to get their issue on the political agenda, it may now get there.

Getting media attention is the key to many modern protests, and much like performing charity stunts, the more original the protest the better. One Kent hotelier is reportedly going to take advantage of Guy Fawkes' Night to set light to a Jaguar he bought for 2,400, to make his protest against the government. The car used to belong to the Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

He and Mr Chick are by no means alone. The creativity shown by demonstrators is illustrated by just some of these tales of modern protest.

Milking it
Animal welfare activist Sean Gifford has travelled the length of the UK dressed as a cow to draw attention to the claimed hazards of drinking milk. But the stunt turned sour last year in Aberdeen when angry schoolchildren pelted him with cartons of milk.

Mr Gifford and a colleague, also in a cow outfit, were surrounded by about 100 children shouting "milk for the masses" and waving banners. The police eventually rescued the two milk-drenched activists, from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and escorted them back to their car.

Undaunted by the hostile reception, Mr Gifford said: "I think they just got a bit over-excited. I'm sure they will go home and think about our message." But one 16-year-old pupil, quoted by The Scotsman, said: "This is a stupid idea. I certainly won't stop drinking milk just because a man has dressed up as a cow outside my school."

Chutes away
Professional stuntman Gary Connery parachuted 150ft off Nelson's Column to highlight the political situation in Tibet. Although Mr Connery believed in what campaign group Act for Tibet was doing, he said he wanted to do the stunt because "it's not every day you're asked to jump off Nelson's Column".

The biggest problem he faced - after an hour long climb up the landmark with four other protesters - was where to land. "In the end I decided to jump off the column and see what happened. I was prepared to take a knock but it worked out okay," he said.

The remaining protesters unfurled a photo of the Dalai Lama - the spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan people - before abseiling down. Mr Connery - whose previous stunts include jumping off the Eiffel Tower and riding a BMX bike off Beachy Head - was arrested on suspicion of criminal damage, but later released without charge.

The inactivist
In the mid -1990s, Brian Dean quit his highly paid but tedious job in computers in protest, he claims, at wage slavery.

Since then, the self-styled "inactivist" has spread the anti-work message through articles in The Idler magazine and his own Anxiety Culture website. When he can be bothered, of course.

The Anxiety Culture website contains subversive stickers to place around the workplace and articles on "how to avoid responsibility" and "your duty to phone in sick". "Politicians see jobs as a cure-all for social ills," he says.

"We'd like to see this notion discredited. We'd like to see leisure replace employment as achievable political goal."

One of his other causes is his belief that crime statistics are ramped up by the authorities and media to spread anxiety throughout the population.

Rev-erend father
Cornelius "Neil" Horan has said he has no regrets after one of the most bizarre - and dangerous - stunts of recent years. The former Catholic priest was jailed for two months after running on to the track during this year's British Grand Prix at Silverstone.

He stepped on to the fastest part of the course, where the cars reach 200mph, wearing a kilt and waving a placard saying "Read the Bible" and "The Bible is Always Right". Several cars had to swerve to avoid him. Mr Horan pleaded guilty to a single charge of aggravated trespass.

The 56-year-old said he had not planned to carry out the protest, but he had seen an open gate leading to the track and thought it was a sign from God. The prosecution pointed out that he had arrived at the track with a placard and a change of clothing.

The naked rambler
Stephen Gough, aka the Naked Rambler, has been arrested time and again on his trek from Land's End to John O'Groats. His epic walk is a protest against society's attitude to public nudity - and it is just such attitudes which have landed him in trouble with the authorities.

This summer, North Yorkshire police reported five sightings of an "athletic man with an all-over tan" traversing the Pennine Way, prompting much speculation about the booming popularity of "boots-only" walking. But one man, Mr Gough, admits all five were him.

"I'm doing the walk as a celebration of myself as a human being, and my body is an important part of that," he has said. It is a drawn-out celebration - Mr Gough is on trial on Friday in Scotland, charged with walking naked in the presence of the public in circumstances likely to produce a road safety hazard and a breach of the peace.

Altogether now
The power of massed nudity is something different altogether.

Inspired by the women who held a nude vigil against corporate exploitation outside the Nigerian parliament last year, naked protests against war in Iraq were held across the globe in early 2003.

In California and in Australia, naked women spelt out "No War"; in near-freezing temperatures in a Sussex field, the group Bare Witness formed the word "Peace". Organiser Mike Grenville said: "We were all a little bit coy about stripping off, but this is the biggest global crisis since the cold war, so we got over our feelings of embarrassment."

The group now plans to spell out an anti-GM message in central London during US President George Bush's upcoming visit.

The nut stunt
An artist protesting against student debt used his nose to push a monkey nut for seven miles to the door of Downing St in September.

It took Mark McGowan a fortnight to complete the journey, at the end of which he delivered the nut and a letter, which asked Prime Minister Tony Blair to accept the nut as payment for his student debt. He was not, however, optimistic. "I'm not really holding out much hope they'll give me 15,000 for doing it," he told reporters.

It was not the first time Mr McGowan got up close and personal with the capital's mean - and grubby - streets. Last December he rolled four-and-a-half miles across the central city singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" to promote kindness to office cleaners.


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