How not to protest: Philip Hammond, incest and shouting abuse

So far it is rather murky exactly what Philip Hammond said when meeting equal marriage campaigners, and how close he really got to bracketing equal marriage with incest.

What however hasn’t been challenged is what some of the protesters shouted at Philip Hammond:

He was greeted by protestors’ chants of ‘Gay, straight, black, white: marriage is a civil right’, ‘Hey, (hey), ho, (ho), homophobia’s got to go’, ‘Say it loud, say it clear, bigots are not welcome here’, ‘Unequal rights? We don’t buy it: we remember the Stonewall riots’, and ultimately, ‘Fuck off Philip Hammond, you homophobe’.

It’s a classic case of how not to protest, because the sort of abuse the chanters descended to is just what make opponents dig in their heals and cling even more strongly to their existing views, and which also is just what puts off those unsure on an issue.

Equality comes from persuading people to change their views. Legislative success comes from winning over supporters. Chanting abuse like that achieves neither.


22 responses to “How not to protest: Philip Hammond, incest and shouting abuse”

  1. I have to admit to having started the 'Fuck off Philip Hammond' one. I think the blog misunderstands what we were trying to do with the protest. Hammond was extremely unlikely to change his views as a result of briefly being whisked past a group of protesters on his way into a building to talk about defence policy. Our aim, then, wasn't to somehow coax him round in the space of a few seconds but to draw attention to the nature of his daft and unpleasant views. By the time we'd started telling him to fuck off he was already safely ensconced within the building, having his private meeting with my friends Jack and Joe.
    Still…I stand by it, he really ought to fuck off.

    • The way we drew attention to it? By chanting about his homophobia in front of students, staff and the local and university press! He look pretty rattled. As it turned out of course, while some of our number were chanting, he was making himself look even more of an idiot spouting nonsense to Jack and Joe inside, in an event I think you might acknowledge drew a bit of attention.
      Then again, who am I to question a Lib Dem when it comes to putting pressure on the Tories…

    • I'm sorry, but as a member of another union's LGBT+ executive, I find your behaviour entirely inappropriate – and also damaging to the cause of equal rights. People aren't going to listen to us if we are reduced to muck-slinging and abuse. We are not going to win our equal rights if we are reduced to infantile abuse on the streets of our cities.

      I think you need to put down the megaphone, Mr Harris.

    • Tim, where exactly did the damage take place? And which of the alleged mud that was slung was inaccurate? And how do you expect us to have won him over in the brief time he walked into a private meeting instead? I suppose what I'm asking for is a concrete suggestion of tactics rather than a lofty moralism divorced from the situation in question.
      And by the way, we didn't need a megaphone, there were 70 of us, we didn't need one.

    • It's not just about Philip Hammond – it's about passers by, who may not really care about this issue, but whose minds are made up when they see people screaming and swearing at someone in some pretty egregious terms on one side of the debate or the other. You don't seem to allow good people to disagree with you; if they disagree with you, they must be evil. I'm sorry, but that is a terrible way to do politics.

      And wow – 70 people all screaming abuse at one person. What a great image for LGBT+ people to be associated with.

    • Tim – we chanted at a minister about his homophobia. The overwhelming number of people on campus agree with us on the issue as we could tell not only from our successes getting the demo approved at the general meetings of the SU, but also by the encouraging reception we got from people passing us by. Your first point, then, just doesn't tally up with what actually happened. Your second point, that we allegedly think everyone who disagrees with us is evil, has even less basis in reality. Where did we say this? When we accused Hammond of being a homophobe? Is he not a homophobe? Were we all just imagining it when he stated his opposition to equal rights? As to other people who weren't sure about the issue, we talked to them rationally and largely won them round. But that doesn't mean we should therefore mind our p's and q's around a government minister, nor does it mean that we should limit our protest in the face of abstract and ungrounded allegations about the dangers of 'screaming' at people.

  2. if only the protesters could afford to employ Mark Pack they'd change Tory minds overnight. Now I know where the Chartists, Suffragettes and Anti-Poll Tax Unions went wrong – they should have all employed a PR firm.

    • In each of those cases – Chartists, Suffragettes, Anti-Poll Tax – it wasn't those with extremists tactics who won the battle, it was those with more moderate ones. Violent riots didn't sink the poll tax; defeats in by-elections did for example. So yes, some different tactics would have been wise!

    • The Chartists risked life and limb with their 'big petition'. I completely agree that rioting did not stop the Poll Tax, but a very long and difficult non-payment campaign which your lot opposed. I never met a single Liberal in a single Anti-Poll Tax Union but heard plenty advising that we should pay up and that the Tax would collapse under the weight of its own contradictions. Finally, because really I haven't the time to spend on your faux outrage, shouting at your Tory mates is not the same as rioting.

    • I agree that in the case of anti-poll tax, suffragettes, etc. it was the moderates who won out, but I'm a little sceptical that the radicals weren't required to give it a shove in the first place. I think you need both.

      (Well, actually, I'm more convinced of that in the case of the poll tax riots – which made it look like the government was losing control of the situation – than I am of the suffragettes who were more acting out of despair having faced the government go back on a promise and only won five years later after they had agreed to play ball during the war – it was their moderate behaviour that ensured they won the moral case in 1918).

      In the case of the Chartists, was there a radical wing to speak of?

      In the case of equal marriage though, the government has been won over. It is there for the taking. Organising protests to annoy the minority who disagree is more likely to harden antis opinions than have a positive influence on the agenda.

    • James Graham For the Chartists (and for political reform more generally at the time) there was a range from violent protest through to Parliamentary votes. It's a fair point that the Chartists were somewhat different from the other examples in that their core organising idea was a peaceful petition to Parliament.

      The more general point about how inappropriate choices of methods of protests puts off people you should be wanting to win over still applies in their case I think.

    • Hey Mark Pack. How about this lying thing? First Clegg and now your other bloke. Ten years of fibbing, even when his son is pleading with him to stop. Is that as bad as shouting at a Tory for two minutes on your personal morality scale? And what about the political ramifications?

  3. One of the students interviewing Hammond is a staunch communist and vocal opponent of 'tory scum'. I find it difficult to trust a word he's saying about what happened in the interview, especially as his facebook page is now plastered with self-congratulatory degoratory comments about how much the press love him and how much everyone hates tories.

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