This was originally published on the Rabel Christian Civil Liberties page on Google Plus.
Occupy London and the Right to Protest
The Occupy movement in London has brought to a head the limits to protest in the UK and has also challenged the Church on whether to support protest or the status quo
The court case judgement, passed last Wednesday, which effectively stated that an occupation form of protest is not protected by the human rights of freedom of assembly and freedom of expression, has markedly raised the stakes in the Occupy movement in the UK.
Already, plans are being pursued which would make occupation of buildings a criminal offence, even if they had remained empty and neglected for years, and now the decision has been made that, although a continuous protest could be held at a location, there would have to be a night-time pause in the protest with a resumption in the morning.
The potential of this is to make a semi-permanent camp, such as OccupyLSX, an illegal protest, and given that the causes and aims of Occupy require a semi-permanent camp, this will be a new low in the right to protest in the UK. Previous occupation protests, such as the women peace activists at Greenham Common, went on for many years.
The role of the Church has also been brought into focus, and there are deep divisions in the role the Church should play. Many Christians have sided with the Occupiers and have pledged to form a “ring of prayer” around Occupy LSX should eviction go ahead.
Yet others have come out firmly against the methods of Occupy and support eviction.
The question that should be on every Christian’s heart, however, is not which side we should support, but which course of action is most in-keeping with Christ’s teaching. Should we protect the “sale of doves and pigeons” and defend the “money-changers” over the real need to urgently reform the political and econmic structures of Western consumerism? Should the need to be submissive to the authorities trump the need to take action against economic injustice? Should we support only government condoned forms of democratic expression?
What are your views on this? Please do comment and share.