Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: Talking Point
Front Page 
World 
UK 
UK Politics 
Business 
Sci/Tech 
Health 
Education 
Entertainment 
Talking Point 
Forum 
In Depth 
AudioVideo 



Aaron Hooks, Germany
"Violence can never be tolerated"
 real 28k

Corinne Lapage, Paris, France
"I'm involved in the movement and am against violence"
 real 28k

Issa Mohammed, Ghana
"I support them ... in Africa our governments don't give us the right to protest"
 real 28k

Kari Tapio, Stockholm, Sweden
"These groups have lost a lot of ground in Sweden"
 real 28k

Luciano Monteiro, Brazil
"The origins of these protest lie in the collapse of communism"
 real 28k

Krishna, Madras, India
"The media has made it worse"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 27 June, 2001, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Is violent protest ever justified?

The World Bank has decided to hold next week's annual development conference in cyberspace to avoid protest scenes like those witnessed at the latest European Union summit in Gothenberg.

Many protest groups have hailed the World Bank decision as a victory and have promised to take more direct action by bombarding the bank's web site.

Do you think violent demonstrations can ever be justified? Have you ever been involved in a demonstration of any kind?

David Long from "Reclaim the Streets" took your questions on Talking Point ON AIR, the phone-in programme of the BBC World Service and BBC News Online.

Select the link below to watch to Talking Point On Air

This Talking Point has now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.


  • Your comments since the programme
  • Your comments during the programme
  • Your comments before the programme

    Your comments since the programme


    If peaceful protest is repressed violent protest will become the norm

    Ben Taylor, England
    As Tony Blair says there is no place for violent protest in a true democracy; he was right to condemn it. However during the visit of the Chinese PM some time ago it was the police who forcibly repressed peaceful protest and even confiscated Tibetan flags. This was obviously done on instructions from his government despite the denials. If peaceful protest is repressed violent protest will become the norm.
    Ben Taylor, England

    Before condemning what you're spoon-fed through the telly, try to dispassionately understand the context of the protests. I've seen many protest movements come and go in my life, but the common element is the commitment to higher ideals. The number of protestors who enjoy being smacked by a truncheon, poisoned by chemical weapons or trampled by horses is very, very few.

    I do not condone violence for the sake of violence or the taking of human life. I also believe that non-violent methods must be creatively employed. But it's foolish to think that the elites will be swayed by appeals to the good or just. The thousands of police in Quebec City that fired many canisters of chemical weapons were not doing so because the government was interested in peaceful dialogue. The government is employing violence against its own people because its sold us down the river to the corporations and many are saying we're not going to lie down meekly. And it shouldn't come as a surprise that some will respond it kind.
    Mark, Canada

    If the EU leaders choose to ignore the will of the people when it is displayed with the democratic process (Ireland voting 'no', for example). Then they will have to expect people to take to the streets.
    Bob, Cheltenham, UK

    Of course it is. Did Hitler listen to reason? Did Milosevic? And what about the Israelis, the South Africans or the Indonesians? If all you have to resist is logical argument and emotional pleas, then dictatorship will always win. Get real about a non-violent world until humanity has evolved beyond selfish self-interest.
    Rhys Jaggar, Manchester, England

    I am getting more concerned about the eroding rights of people around the world to think and to exercise their God given rights. Slowly, but surely the citizens of the world are losing their freedoms. We are in a time very similar to that written about by George Orwell in his book entitled "1984". People are losing their "identity" and freedom of expression. Unless the West (especially, England, and the USA) start speaking up against "totalitarianism" we will have none to blame except ourselves for failing to question what is happening. This is not accomplished by violence. But, it can be resolved by good communications.
    Dave Adams, St. Louis/USA

    To answer this question we must attempt to understand this anger. Start with spin doctoring of recent elections. People who don't like either choice under the two party systems in the US and UK don't vote. This is cast as "voter apathy". People don't see politics as important any more, as the real power lies elsewhere. This concedes that democracy has been de-clawed by corporate power, while misinterpreting the public distaste for what passes for democracy. This further enrages the dispossessed voter who used to collectively control his country's economy and rely on publicly owned utilities. Some smash windows in an attempt to draw attention to the fact that globalisation simply shifts wealth from the community to an elite few, as evidenced by the 20% increase in billionaires in the US this year.
    Phil Toms, Auckland New Zealand


    Take time-out to learn peaceful tactics

    Peeter Värv, Tallinn, Estonia
    The thinking of so-called Direct Action activists, somehow reminds me of the approach of the early 20th century bolsheviks and anarchists who subsequently managed to make things a lot worse. Direct action appears to be no civil action.

    Maybe these rather fresh activists do not recognize the rules of democracy because street action requires less thinking, less patience. I think the frenzy of organizing new street protests does not allow the Direct Action people to create any positive programme for promoting and spreading peaceful and expert-supported criticism of globalisation over media.

    Take time-out to learn peaceful tactics. Say also what you support, not only these obvious and convenient targets, which you condemn, not seeing people and economic aspirations behind them.
    Peeter Värv, Tallinn, Estonia

    Is it acceptable, in the face of violent corporate action directed toward the destruction of democracy all over the globe, that people who do nothing to protest should be passing judgement upon those who do protest? If you are serious about maintaining democracy, people have a duty to protest the actions of those who would undermine it.
    Steven V. Venem, USA


    I feel that somebody out there values my life and the lives of those around me.

    James Mutoigo, Kampala, Uganda
    There is no doubt that big companies are involved in a number of malpractices that jeopardise the lives of many people. Inasmuch as I am generally opposed to violence, when I see press reports about violent protests in the West for the sake of the Third World, I feel that somebody out there values my life and the lives of those around me. These people pay the ultimate price for the sake of those of us who will never repay them
    James Mutoigo, Kampala, Uganda

    I believe violence is the most fundamental and primal form of action. Violent protests can only be a last resort where all other avenues of social and political have been exhausted. For instance with gross human rights abuses and a breakdown of social/political order or a tyrannical dictatorship. If we sanction violent protest or condone it for anything less, then we are going to have a hard time drawing the line.

    Ultimately, violence can achieve nothing without things that achieve the real change, eg. discussions, negotiations etc. These are compromised because of the violence of the protests and made more difficult if not impossible. Then the violent protests only serve to benefit the protestors and they all become liars and hypocrites.
    David Kiu, Singapore


    Violence seems to be the only thing those in power take note of

    Jim Clark
    As an ecologist, I view the cancellation of the summit in Barcelona as a minor victory for the protesters. Airplane exhaust fumes make a considerable contribution to the depletion of the ozone layer.

    These industrialists (not to mention the protesters they attract) don't need to fly around the world on their fat expense accounts, just to exchange views and information. Let them use the internet, sitting safely in their golden cages.

    I disapprove of violence, but unfortunately, it seems to be the only thing those in power take note of.
    Jim Clark


    What right does someone engaged in criminal activity have to privacy?

    Chris Hann, California, USA
    At the point where a protest movement chooses to use violence that becomes its primary aspect. The governments then have an easy response in that the protesters can be identified as criminal and handled appropriately.

    What right does someone engaged in criminal activity have to privacy? Why should they be allowed to separate their normal life from their criminal activities?
    Chris Hann, California, USA

    Violent demonstrations cannot be justified any democratic country. Unruly mobs have taken over and all but destroyed the economy of Zimbabwe affecting the lives of the entire population. They are an absolute minority but unfortunately for the the majority of us, their cause is state sponsored. This is dangerous ground.
    Rory Turnbull

    Your comments during the programme


    Violent protesters are almost always a small minority amongst protesters as a whole

    Jonathon Beves, Sydney, Australia
    Why is it that the media always focuses on the violence at protests and blames one side for the violence? More often than not the violence is begun by the actions of the police (claims of police brutality never seem to be mentioned by the media despite the evidence). Violent protesters are almost always a small minority amongst protesters as a whole.
    Jonathon Beves, Sydney, Australia

    Is not violent protest justified if democratic or popular protest is continually ignored by political elites?
    Aris, Melbourne, Australia

    I believe only words will not persuade the big corporations to put some of their profits aside in order to help the poor. Free market is not about helping, it is about profit. So the poor are naturally against the free market. And since we live in a world where most people are obliged to take part in this free market, someone has to do some kind of radical action to change it, or, at least, to show there are opposing voices and that the capitalists will not rule for ever.
    Luciano Monteiro, Sao Leopoldo, Brazil


    Restricted violence, I believe, is unavoidable

    R. Zahir, Agadir, Morocco
    It is quite easy to describe anti-globalisation demonstrators as violent saboteurs and troublemakers. But has not the policy of the World Bank and their experts damaged and continue to damage the lives of many innocent people? The extent of the damage done by the protesters is incomparably geographically circumscribed. That of the W.B is universal and devastating. Restricted violence, I believe, is unavoidable.
    R. Zahir, Agadir, Morocco

    I don't think violent protests change peoples' minds in the way they are meant to. It would be nice if the protesters seriously considered arguments on all sides of the issues they show such concern about before reaching their conclusions. It's less exciting and maybe less rewarding in other ways to do that, but it's also more helpful.
    Neil Abrahams, Oregan, USA

    I was horrified at the violence I saw on TV of demonstrators against globalisation. It was unbelievable that sane people could go to such extents of barbarism to justify their cause. Surely there must be another reasonable way to voice their feelings. By going on a violence spree they are only adding insult to injury because very many innocent people get hurt.
    Alice Litta, Brussels, Belgium.


    Running riot advances no worthy cause.

    Donnamarie Leemann, Switzerland
    I took part in many peaceful anti-Vietnam War demos in California in the late 1960's. Back then, we called violent demonstations "riots."

    The good people of Goteberg did nothing to provoke destruction on the streets of their well-ordered town other than to offer to host a global forum. Running riot advances no worthy cause.
    Donnamarie Leemann, Switzerland

    Every individual should be able to express their opinion. However, this must be reciprocated by the demonstrators. When an international forum was held in Melbourne, the demonstrators prevented genuine employees, who depended on a wage for a living, from entering the premises where the forum was held. The violent reputation of the demonstrators had also forced small businesses such as cafes and newsagents around the vicinity to close down for the duration of the conference.

    All these demonstrations seem to do is adversely affect the innocent. There can be no justification for violence. These demonstrators should follow the non violent path of Gandhi and Dr Martin Luther King Jr to achieve their goal. If demonstrators resort to violence then it is inevitable that the authorities will react accordingly to protect the rest of society. They cannot cry foul when they get hurt.
    Muru, Melbourne, Australia

    Your comments before we went ON AIR


    I am glad that there are brave people out there willing to fight for what is right

    Michael, Melbourne, Australia
    Violence for its own sake is of course wrong, but when there is no other avenue for people to be heard or even taken seriously, what does one expect. In New Zealand, during a World Bank conference, not only were the main streets closed off, but all protests, peaceful or otherwise were treated with severity. One sees what happens to a democracy when it is subjugated by corporate and financial interests. I am glad that there are brave people out there willing to fight for what is right. Even if they are not remembered in our official histories, I am sure there are many like me that will do so and applaud them.
    Michael, Melbourne, Australia

    Evolution not revolution is the answer. Arm yourselves with the facts. Simply do not buy any products or services produced by a multinational company, where possible. Support your local small businesses, as they are the real source of employment and most of all pay taxes for the good of the community. The money tends to stay in the area where it is spent and not disappear overseas into the coffers of some multinational corporation.
    David Butler, Australia

    Real democracy, in the UK at least, is a lie. We get to vote once every 4 years for one of two parties that have a realistic chance of forming government. This is absurd and, for obvious reasons, has the effect of disempowering citizens.

    Of course those with strong political concerns must resort to demonstrating, and the chances that such demonstrations will become violent increase alongside the very real frustration of citizens. Introduce proportional representation, where every vote really does count, and perhaps society's faith in democracy will be restored. Until then, direct action and NGOs will continue to overtake official government as the primary methods for expressing one's political concerns and attempting to engender changes.
    Michael Entill, UK


    If our corporate governments get their way, we will all wind up fighting wars caused by them

    John Marra, Michigan, USA
    Violence is a terrible thing, but our governments and corporations are forcing the people into something we don't want. As much as I'd like to see the world live as one, I know we aren't yet ready for globalisation. If our corporate governments get their way, we will all wind up fighting wars caused by them. Perhaps a small amount of violence now will stop the larger, bloodier wars from ever starting.
    John Marra, Lincoln Park, Michigan, USA

    It is heartening to see that the majority here are against violent protest. Even in a partial democracy we still have freedoms, other than voting, to change the world. We can set up petitions, and protests; we can get the media involved.

    Violence merely shows that, when you can't persuade others of your opinions, you resort to despotic means -- and then how can you say that you're morally superior to corporations, which only indirectly, and inconclusively subvert democracy?

    Violence and democracy are total opposites. The way forward is to persuade the masses of how greater democracy would benefit them. In fact, environmentalism has become mainstream precisely because people can see that reducing pollution, at the cost of lower production or higher prices, is a good thing.
    Guy Freeman, London, UK


    The protest movement is not violent in character or intent

    KM
    The reference to "violent protest" at various international meetings is deliberately misleading, reflective of the disparity of power between everyday people and the corporate/governmental groups participating in the meetings. The fact is that these decisions are not arrived at democratically, and exclude the great majority of the people who are affected by them, both directly and indirectly. The presence of protesters is a vote of "no confidence" in the WTO, NAFTA, GATT, FTAA, and so forth.

    The protest movement is not violent in character or intent, no matter how the media seeks to paint us that way. The violence, conversely, is on the part of the participants at these meetings, whose policies do considerable harm to working people and the environment. It is the combination of the politics of manipulation and exclusion, and the unwillingness on the part of ruling elites to consider contrary opinions (particularly those of an anticapitalist persuasion), that creates the illusion that the protest movement is in the wrong on this, that we are the violent, unreasonable ones, by viewing people as more important than profits.
    KM

    These people represent a miniscule fraction of normal people, but have a massively disproportionate effect. They do it because they can. There is no other reason; thugs have always existed, but only in the modern Western world do the authorities tolerate them. Further more, they can and do go on to become government ministers, media personalities etc. The attitude of the media can be, and is in many cases, a contributing factor to this.
    Malcolm Dunn, Bristol, UK


    The 'Establishment' could probably defuse the violent demonstrations

    Nigel Cowan, Montreal
    I believe that the 'Establishment' could probably defuse the violent demonstrations if they could open a forum for dialogue with the various opponents. In Quebec, Bernard Laundry, Premier of Quebec, presided over a conference of opponents of the primary conference.
    Nigel Cowan, Montreal

    The only thing that concerns me is that an on-line conference could potentially be less accountable. How do you protest at an online conference, peacefully or otherwise? Meaningful dialogue is also restricted among the conference delegates, e.g. no socialising. I suspect the protesters may have lost more than they've gained.
    Kathryn, UK

    It should be painfully obvious that peaceful protests are not covered in national media because the national media is owned by corporations.
    Douglas Murray, Thurso UK


    Violent minority groups invariably get nowhere

    Paul, Aberdeen, UK
    These protestors are resorting to violence because they know they are too few in number to make an impact by any other means. But violent minority groups invariably get nowhere. Conversely, non-violent protests gain support as they are often seen to have moral authority, especially if the authorities use violence in attempting to suppress them. Gandhi and Martin Luther King would testify to that.
    Paul, Aberdeen, UK

    These types of protests are one step away from becoming nothing more than terrorism. Scaring people off the streets, overturning cars, throwing bricks are one step. Will the next be burning, bombing buildings or throwing grenades? Oh yeah, we've seen that too. We had a person let his protest turn violent against the Government - and he killed 168 men, women and children in Oklahoma City
    Eric, USA

    Violent protests can never be justified. In addition they do more harm to society than "evil monolith corporations". McDonalds is always a favourite target of these modern day Luddites. By destroying one location, they will cause insignificant financial damage to the company. On the other hand, the employees at that location lose their livelihood. Who is the real criminal here? The company that provides jobs? Or the thugs who destroy the financial stability of working families?
    Flavio, Los Angeles, USA


    My vote at the general election counted for nothing

    Andrew Bartlett, York, UK
    People often say that we live in a democracy, implying we live in a state of political near Nirvana where our voices are heard and count. What rubbish. My vote at the general election counted for nothing, I elected no representative, no portion of a party list, and when my choice failed to win, no-one considered that I may have a second choice other than the eventual winner. Our current Government rules with an absolute majority, gained with the help of just 20-odd % of the electorate. Add this to the concentration of parties on winning the 'floating voters', and we see just how small a percentage of this country has a say in who governs us. Democracy, it's good, but it's not the one I'm looking for.
    Andrew Bartlett, York, UK

    I have never seen people agreeing so overwhelmingly... It seems to me that we, the people who read this, are not the violent protesters. Our leaders would have expected us to be disgusted by the "extremists". It is scary that we are not. Not because we approve of violence but of what has caused it. Yes, they are deaf because all leaders throughout history only care about their short-term benefits. By the way, Bryan from Australian is a wise man...exposure drives people.
    LT, USA (European)

    Haven't many wars been fought over issues that could be seen as 'protest'? Curiously, this is legal...
    Adam Starkey, UK living in USA


    Why not listen to the stories of the oppressed before it is too late

    Gary, Canada
    The protests at this level will continue to escalate, why not listen to the stories of the oppressed before it is too late.
    Gary, Canada

    As Blair says, there's no need for this in a democratic society - but since we no longer have a functional democracy, violent protest is the only available option. A travelling anarchist circus to fight the global capital circus of which Blair is such an enthusiastic supporter.
    Stuart, UK

    Before condemning the protesters we should ask what other avenue is open for them to express their views? We could also ask whether the police opening fire was their form of protest at being bombarded with missiles. It is, after all, rather daft to throw rocks at someone who has a machine gun.
    Tanya Smithson, England

    Big business is carrying out a gradual coup d'etat against our democratic institutions. Unfortunately our politicians seem intent on aiding and abetting this. It's hardly surprising that things are turning violent.
    Rich, London, UK

    There's a real problem at the heart of governments' approach to protest at the moment: by effectively closing off cities, announcing that police will deal with "dissent" ruthlessly and creating an atmosphere of fear, governments have effectively criminalised democratic protest - the message that has gone out is "all protesters are violent and are subject to arrest". But this is clearly not the case, as anyone who has seen these events with their own eyes can tell you - there's a wide range of views being expressed, from trade unions to Grandmothers for Peace to Christian anti-poverty campaigners. Blair et al should do well to remember the following Machiavellian maxim: any time your populace revolts against you, you are at least partly to blame.
    John Wisehammer, London, UK

    I always thought that the news was supposed to be objective so why no coverage on the Peaceful Protest in London where over 50000 people all dedicated to a cause which they believe is right for society. There was no coverage because it is against the government's agenda and beacause there was no violent protest to exploit. Reporting on it would have made people listen to their cause and maybe even start supporting them. Now we look at the violent protests in Gothenburg, every single mainstream news company in the UK reported on these protests, all including pictures of violence taken and displayed in the most shocking way that they can. I don't recall seeing one media company highlight in any detail the cause which these people are protesting for.

    I do not condone violence yet nor do I condemn such activities when you realise what the true cause of the protest is and how it is being manipulated. I can see the protesters point of view any publicity is better than none at all.
    Marcus Taylor, Cambs, UK


    Protest, even violent protest, is justifiable

    Euan Gray, UK
    Protest, even violent protest, is justifiable if the government against whom the protest is directed will not listen to more peaceful dissent or, more importantly, will not pay attention to it. However, since there is nothing in EU countries to stop the protesters creating their own political party and participating in the conventional process, this can hardly be argued as a justifiable case.
    Euan Gray, UK

    I am sure some just enjoy the violence for its own sake. But for others, I think this is a sign of the increasing disenfranchisement of the masses. Governments are losing power to unelected and unaccountable individuals making decisions behind closed doors. This leads to frustration for those who feel their voice should be heard. It is a very worrying trend, shown by the low turnouts in elections. People are beginning to sense where the real power lies.
    Ken Beach, Germany

    People have said that the multi-nationals won't listen... but everyone in the 1970s and 1980s thought the environmentalists were loonies, but look where they have got us today. Everyone is aware of the environmental issues and more people than ever recycle. It just takes a few to stand up, make a statement and get noticed. In the next decade perhaps we will all be wondering why we ever let these conglomerates rule the world!

    On the subject of violent campaigning, if this is the way to waken to the political elite, then so be it.
    Jana, London, England

    It seems that most people believe that the elite in government do not take any notice, hence the violent pattern of protest that is emerging. Governments have got to alter the way in which they govern, the uncaring and deaf posture adopted by many is not meeting the needs of people - who are beginning to feel disenfranchised. In the UK the whisper, 'resistance' is getting louder - perhaps those in power, locally as well as nationally should start to listen more!
    Ian Vickery, UK

    In this case violence is harming the purpose of the demonstrations as it enables the politicians to write off the protesters as extremists and ignore the issues. We do not have enough say in what is being done in the EU.
    Neil, Wales

    The protesters in Sweden and London damaged some buildings and looted some shops. The bosses of Railtrack caused 31 deaths at Paddington. Whose violence has gone too far?
    Stephan, UK / Germany

    Maybe the media is partly to blame for violent protests. If the media stopped marketing violent protest but set aside a regular page/news spot for peaceful demos - would things change?
    Bryan B, Australia

    When is enough, enough? Can I ask one question - why are these people never at work, do they take a days holiday to go on the rampage?
    Kay , England

    Those left-wing groups and anarchists say they represent the people when they say it's a legitimate action to wreck a city because they don't like how "things are". Well let me tell you that you certainly don't represent me or any fellow citizen when you come to my town and smash it up. I never asked you to break windows and destroy our streets. You do not represent the people. All you represent is your own desire to destroy and do violence. The only fault I can find with the police is that they didn't shoot more people.
    Citizen of Gothenburg, Sweden

    Do you really think we live in a democracy? On what thought basis? Try reading about quantum logic then things will make more sense.
    Mike Hunt, UK

    Everyone who is caught rioting, should be held responsible to share the bill. It's outrageous that those "protesters" go scot-free and the taxpayers and/or insurance policy takers have to foot the bills.
    Volker, England (ex Germany)

    After the recent Talking Point bashing the US received, I find it more than a little bit amusing to watch those same Europeans come to grips with the nature of the "superior" governance they have created. You create a set of rules to operate this European Union, and as soon as the ruling elites lose by the rules they themselves set up, well the rules are ignored.

    You stake a claim to a moral superiority as to human rights and political freedoms, and your equivalent of an Attorney General argues before your highest court that public criticism of the EU, its institutions, its policies, and its officials is legally blasphemy. The sine qua non of the EU has been the freedom of goods, people, and ideas to cross borders freely in hopes that national borders will disappear; and your first reaction to public opposition is to freeze that movement and attempt to erect barriers to opposing ideas. Such an interesting conception of freedom!
    Roland Mar, USA

    If these protesters, violent or not, continue with their present tactics, the only message most people will get is "duh - international organisations are bad - duh". If they quiet down, no message will receive attention. If they adopt more sophisticated and imaginative messaging methods, they'll get appropriated by the advertising industry. There ain't no winning this one.
    Paul Connor, Canada

    If a protest becomes violent, the point of the protest is lost. Because this seems to happen so frequently and quickly, I seriously doubt these "protesters" have a point to make. These days any excuse will do to throw in some windows. Stay home, start a petition, and practice democracy yourself instead of shouting that there isn't any. These are probably the same sort of people that don't vote, and then say the government doesn't do anything for them, doesn't listen to them. Act, but in a balanced, thoughtful and democratic fashion.
    Jeroen, The Netherlands

    It's a lot less damaging than the global economic policies of the majority of "big businesses", which coupled with the sham of the World Bank and the IMF, help to keep the majority of the planet in appalling poverty. Of course we don't like these actions in the comfortable West, everything is rosy in comparison.
    Chris C, London, UK

    I always say: "How long do you have to kick a dog before he barks?" Throughout history if the voice of the people has been ignored it ended in riots and civil unrest. It seems our arrogant politicians have not learned from history. If politicians continue to claim to be democratically elected by 25% of the electorate as Tony Blair has done it doesn't surprise me that we are heading for civil unrest.
    Ralph Benker, UK, ex-Germany

    I've been on a number of peaceful protests, some of which became violent after a while. But it wasn't well-informed protesters who were to blame, it was a minority of ill-informed thugs who used emotional blackmail to turn a legal activity into a shameful event. Violent protesters disgust me.
    Jenni, UK

    Never, never, never! There can be no justification for violence.
    Peter Bolton, UK in US

    Many people feel disillusioned and ignored by the officials they elected democratically to represent them. They legitimately feel passed over by governments and that their voice does not matter. This is equally present in the case of the low turnout in the general election of recent weeks, and although violence is wrong, until leaders listen to their people, they cannot blame protesters.
    Russell Hope, UK

    I find it fascinating that anyone could seriously suggest that non-violent protesters should simply stay at home. I mean, where do you begin? Having been at several demos as a photographer and seen police tactics for myself, I am painfully aware of the state of "democracy" nowadays. i.e. there isn't any. I have seen them baton charge people for simply talking to them, and on one occasion I saw a reporter beaten up for obtaining footage of police dragging an old woman down concrete steps by her hair (oh, and she hadn't been threatening them with her umbrella or anything similarly menacing). You often have only to look at news footage (preferably with the sound off) to see many similar incidents of unjustified violence. It is understandable that individual officers may submit to fear in some situations, but surely there should be training to deal with that, and perhaps they ought be reminded that they are the ones wearing full body armour and carrying big sticks and are far less likely to be hurt than the protesters around them. (Aside from the fact that it is not their job, supposedly, to prevent free speech...)
    Jay, London

    Two cases from American history may prove instructive here. Both take place during the Civil Rights movement. The first was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Through peaceful protest and mobilisation of the people, following the example of Gandhi, he was able to break down countless barriers to racial equality in America. After his assassination, his movement was even more ennobled. The second case was the more radical and violent Black Panther movement. Whether or not violent protest is justified, I believe it's obvious which method was more effective.
    James, Washington DC, USA

    No - violent protest is not justifiable on any grounds. Furthermore, the protester's continual cries of "Provocation!" are pathetic, quite frankly.
    Ade Vickers, London, UK

    It suits Tony Blair to dismiss anti-globalisation violence as a travelling anarchist circus. It is in fact a spontaneous rejection of a new world order of which Blair himself is a principal architect. Blair's "reform" of the Labour Party has left British opponents of unrestrained capitalism without meaningful political representation. Furthermore Blair has led European appeasement of the Bush Administration as it tramples one international treaty after another.

    Last week a few determined demonstrators did more to influence EU decision-making than Blair and Robin Cook have managed to do in over four years. The result, in the long term, will be a better fairer world.
    Justin Vogler , Brussels Belgium

    Like with a previous generation of protesters, many of these will one day end up in the positions of authority they now protest. Consider the career of Bill Clinton, for instance.
    T.J. Cassidy, U.S.A.

    Your absolutely correct Alex, most people are brainwashed morons who believe anything the TV tells them. Either that or they take selfish "I'm all right jack" attitude to the rest of the worlds problems. And it's interesting to note that most of the people supporting the police's actions are reduced to name-calling and stereotyping. For your information I am un-pierced and in full time employment like a good percentage of the people I have met at such protests.
    Daniel, London, UK

    The role of the media (including the BBC) is a central problem in discussions about the new protest movement. Rather than discuss the issues the protesters raise (and the elites ignore, dismiss, or obfuscate), the media concentrates on the vandalism of a few to cast aspersion on the legitimate concerns of many. Please BBC, try initiating a forum such as this that discusses things such as "investor-to-state relations", structural adjustment, least restrictive trade policies, and corporate control of governments and media institutions. I doubt this institution has either the willingness or honesty to raise that discussion, however.
    Kristian, Chicago, USA

    A lot of people on these pages seem to believe that the protests are about a single issue. In reality, they are about many different but related issues and that is why the protesters sometimes contradict themselves and why they may appear to be ignorant and uneducated.

    We must hope that, with time, these unorganised and unfocused groups will, like the green movement and the civil rights movement, transform into a structured political force: It must be clear to anyone that the political process has not kept pace with the economic one. The protests may be "too" violent, but at least they are bringing attention to issues that have been apparent for at least 10 years, but have, so far, been ignored.
    Stephan, Ldn, UK

    Violent protests are a symptom of communication breakdown. These people feel they have a message that needs to be heard but people refuse to listen to them. Governments are particularly bad at listening until situations are out of control, and then the police step in to enforce the government's way. I do not feel that violent protests are an answer, but I think these people give themselves little other option, and I'm afraid that we will see more of the same in the future until the protesters and government learn how to talk to each other.
    Daren, Bristol, UK

    Anything can be justified. Israel for example does not like stones thrown at their soldiers by children and shoots the offenders with rifles and rockets from helicopters. America had a new toy and justified its debut over Japan with "it will shorten the war and cost less lives," and then they did an encore. Currently Bush is justifying their "Stand on the Environment" Policy. Think about it: Pol Pot, Hitler, Amin and Stalin could all justify their actions and that did not alter the fact that what they did was wrong. Mind you how we currently are treating the environment and each other is legal and justifiable. It is also immoral, unsustainable and wrong.
    Peter, New Zealand

    History keeps on repeating itself, and we don't learn from it. What's new here, nothing except that there is a global stage, and global elements. As always, violence gets publicity and embarrasses local dignitaries. The protesters hope to influence the conversation from the top rather than the way most people do. They are a small group getting way too much attention, and they are loving it! As usual there are some honest people who believe in their cause and feel the need to speak out. There are those hanging on to the action of the moment and having a good time before they get on with their real life. Then, there are the organisers whose personalities and goals are identical to the group they are protesting against and whose egos are huge.

    The sixties taught us a lot. These people will keep on showing up with one agenda or other, but the underlying theme will be "self-interest".
    Tom H, Chicago, USA

    I agree with what Alex B and others say about democracy being a sham, and the elected governments representing big business rather than the people. However, the successful non-violent campaigns by Ghandi and Martin Luther king show that violence is not the answer. Peaceful protest has gained results, even when the odds seem to be against it.
    Chris, Bradford, UK

    In the words of Mahatma Ghandi, "No".
    Andy D,

    I think everyone has the right to protest, but if protesters decide to use violence then the police should be allowed to use violence back.
    Craig, England

    Violence can never be justified, but we have an electorate who are constantly ignored in favour of focus groups, and have been protesting by opting out of the elections of our politicians without changing anything. Can violence be justified?
    Vic Price, Strathaven

    To those who use violence: If you were really smart AND against capitalism and corporate greed, etc, then you should speak with your wallet. This is what people listen to, violence only makes you the enemy of the average citizen who is more concerned with making a living, and has no time for the utopian principles for which many protesters stand. There is a lot wrong with this world, but you must remember that these "Corporate Greed Machines" are what fuel your high standard of living, and the same freedoms that allow you to stage such protests.

    Thinks about it... is mindless violence the right way forward? Besides if you want to decide the issues by force of arms... believe me, they will win.
    Michael Gahan, Ireland

    Protesters tend to be emotionally inebriated. They gang-up and create disruption and some usually end up committing crimes. They also seek control and do not want to live in a civilized world. They ought to just shut up, since they talk one way and act another and since they think that they know everything, when they are only concerned with having more rights and freedom than the rest of us.
    Al Cattoir, Davenport, USA

    The Asian curse comes to mind: "May you get what you want." The Berkley communists and hippies won and soon the collapse of the middle class will occur.
    Alexander Niedlich,

    In a word, "NO!" I find some of the responses to this question scary, quite frankly. I ask you this: Tell me how much violence has helped the cause of the anti-globalisation forces? Not one bit. If you can't speak in calm, rational voices and take constructive, non-violent action: you're not worth listening to. Violence is the tool of the ignorant.
    Paul, USA

    This is street politics. The far-left has gained visibility and popularity and uses efficient tactics: Push the police to the brink with bricks, insults and so on, and as soon as they budge, complain about police brutality. Call that fair or democratic?
    Edward Christie, Vienna, Austria

    Violence in any shape or form is anti-social and anarchic. It is not welcome in our society and should not be tolerated. There is an old saying - give an inch and they'll take a mile!
    Joyce Morris, Lincoln

    Violent protest is never justified in a free society because there are plenty of peaceful ways to get ones point across. Protestors resort to violence because they can't think of a persuasive argument that stands on its own merit.
    Peter Nelson, Boston, USA

    One point the sincere protestors in these new alliances miss (as opposed to the thugs who are just hoping to fight the police - and, yes, we have our share of these demented individuals in Australia) is that 'revolutionary' tactics are NOT intended to improve a situation. As developed by the socialist revolutionaries of the past, these tactics are only intended to make a situation or society WORSE - until it is so bad that the population can not stand any more and revolution takes place. That is obviously not going to happen anywhere in the developed world, so all that is happening is that these protestors are making things worse for their own causes and everyone else, for no particular reason. Since many of the causes espoused by these groups have some or even much merit, this is a bad thing for us all.
    Chris Watson, Australia

    The media should show how the police created violent protestors by attacking peaceful ones, or better yet, show the violence that right-wing economics has on innocent people, especially in the Third World. You should be focusing on the threat of the race to the bottom line turning us all into sweatshop labourers and peasants, not the threat some rock poses to some window.
    Art, Canada


    Sometimes direct action is the only course to take after peaceful protest has failed

    Alex B, UK
    'Western' type democracy is a sham and sometimes direct action is the only course to take after peaceful protest has failed. In the UK, successive governments have lied repeatedly to the public about BSE, foot-and-mouth, GM food etc. They ignore peaceful demos and petitions against bombing foreign countries and against the destruction of the countryside. They award themselves generous pay rises while quashing demands for better pay and working conditions for teachers, nurses and so on. Blair is even more arrogant and patronising than Thatcher and the fact that he is in for second term without the support of the majority of the electorate speaks volumes for our so-called democracy he constantly bleats on about when having a go at protests.
    Alex B, UK

    Two weeks ago we complained that 40% of the country was too apathetic to make its political will felt at the ballot box. Now three young men have been shot whilst making a political point. On the one hand, this is pointing out the flaws in our democracy as the significant number of people in this country who have anti-globalisation views are under-represented. On the other, it's a shame that a small number of people went to Gothenburg looking for a riot rather than peaceful protest, and that the media focus disproportionately on the violence.
    Dave Riley, Cambridge, UK

    I find it interesting that the protesters always talk about "democracy". It seems that democracy today has taken on a whole new meaning for many of these protestors. To them democracy means "do as I say or I will throw a brick through your window!"
    Phil White, Canada


    I reject the agenda of stopping the protesters

    Jens Nielsen, Denmark
    I reject the agenda of stopping the protesters. We have a right to protest against injustice. If the point is, as I believe, to stop the violence, why does the media put the blame on only one side (demonstrators)? The police inflicted 80% of the injuries in Gothenburg, and escalated the conflict all along, but their role is unjustly being completely ignored by the media.
    Jens Nielsen, Denmark

    I laugh at the way most protesters at these events fail to appreciate that the non-participation, indeed the complete lack of interest, of 99% of the populace is indicative of where most of our loyalties lie. Either that, or we're all stupid, brainwashed automatons who need a bunch of pierced ferals to enlighten us with their "truth"!
    Alex Chiang, Australia


    When the protesters get negative publicity because of violence, they only hurt themselves!

    Karl, USA
    Protest is about getting attention for a cause. When the protesters get negative publicity because of violence, they only hurt themselves! They have not advanced their cause, but turned opinion against them. Maybe, if folks don't think that peaceful protest gets the message across, they should try some other means. Mount an advertising campaign! Advertising must be somewhat effective or companies wouldn't use it! This is an entirely non-violent, yet effective, means of protest. I'm sure anyone who sat down and thought for a while could think of other ways as well. If the traditional method doesn't work, think up another one. Massive protests aren't the only way to make your voice heard.
    Karl, USA

    The 'violence' of the protesters is nothing compared to the violence of capitalism. The majority of people in the world live in poverty, environmental pollution threatens our planet and thousands of children die of starvation every day.
    Rob, Ireland

    The democratic process has become a sham; governments listen only to the major corporations when formulating policies which will have immense impact upon the lives of ordinary people. In the face of such realities, street protests increasingly becomes the only way in which people can assure that some attention is paid to their concerns. The reaction of the police states to these protests is very much out of proportion to the size of the protests, the conduct of the protestors (usually far more boisterous than violent, despite media reports), or any reasonable concern for security. One wonders whether the reaction indicates that the states and corporations are up to something they shouldn't be.
    Peter, Canada


    I don't believe the protests have gone too far

    Shawn, Washington, DC, USA
    I don't believe the protests have gone too far. People have a right to get their message out. Violence usually erupts when the police try to restrict the protesters. However, one image did bother me. A young Swedish teen was burning an American flag and laughing with his friends. This image delegitimised the protests for me because he wasn't angry or concerned. He was just at a social gathering with his friends. I'm not a big flag waver - people should be able to non-violently protest any way they want. That youngster sure did look stupid, though.
    Shawn, Washington, DC, USA

    Thom Leggett of UK is absolutely right. Protesters have to speak in a language that is understood. The multi-nationals, media giants and their puppet politicians would not understand what these protesters mean. Summit protests have gone just as far as the events in the summits warrant.
    Kadavul, US

    The idea of the protesters being on benefits (Andrew, New Zealand) is ignorant on several accounts - firstly most are not on benefits, but like myself take time off from work to voice their disgust at the system; secondly there is no choice for people to not rely on benefits as there is no space available to people to maintain basic needs like food if they remove themselves from the system. We are all forced to be in the system. As for it being easy to protest, I beg to differ - when you're surveilled at every action with the likelihood of your e-mails being tapped and don't have much time from work or much money to do it, I would say it is easier not to protest.

    Alternatives are put forward by this movement and ignored by mainstream media for their own corporate reasons. When these make the mainstream media, people can start discussing them. As for violence, how about dying because you can't get clean water because your country owes debts to the IMF and must privatise its public services? The list is truly endless. If we don't protest, then who will and if not now, then when?
    Andy, England

  • Search BBC News Online

    Advanced search options
    Launch console
    BBC RADIO NEWS
    BBC ONE TV NEWS
    WORLD NEWS SUMMARY
    PROGRAMMES GUIDE
    See also:

    16 Jun 01 | UK Politics
    Blair: Anarchists will not stop us
    16 Jun 01 | Europe
    EU sets date for expansion
    Internet links:


    The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


    Links to more Talking Point stories