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Political action & protest



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  • 1. Political Action & Protest Voice and Violence
  • 2. ‘ direct action happens outside normal political processes. It includes peaceful demonstrations, sit-ins and boycotts, as well as violent action such as riots, vandalism , and terrorism’
  • 3. Didcot Power Station Protest 2009 Heathrow Protest Picnic 2009
  • 4. NSMs and Political Action
    • NSMs are far more likely to engage in direct action than traditional political activity.
    • They don’t have a strong voice in party political debate and so they have to get noticed to get on the mainstream agenda.
    • Modern advances such as social networking sites and blogs make it easy to organise protects quickly and without drawing too much attention.
  • 5. Direct Action is often against the law
    • Most action is peaceful – ‘civil disobedience’ means direct action which breaks laws
    Reclaim your street - have a party!
  • 6.
    • Some direct action is violent and criminal and has been characterised as terrorism.
    • Al-Qaeda has taken terrorist direct action against the US. Some Palestinian Nationalist groups have used terrorism against Israel
  • 7.
    • Terrorism can also happen on a smaller scale – some animal rights groups have terrorised scientists and research facilities with letter bombs , threats to safety and kidnapping
  • 8. Riots
    • Riots are violent outbreaks of serious urban disorder on a large scale .
    • They are often seen as desperate actions by people that are not represented in any meaningful way .
    • Most sociological research has focused on the riots of the 1980s ( particularly in Brixton ), however riots have been occurring for centuries.
    • A peaceful demonstration can turn into a riot – the student protests of 2010 is a key example of this
  • 9. Benyon’s (1987) four types of explanation for riots Young working class males riot in an attempt to assert their masculinity at a time when traditional male roles and jobs are in decline Feminist Riots are conscious legitimate political acts . Some groups have no other way of expressing their grievances – they are a working class reaction to the injustices and exploitation of the capitalist system. This includes the reaction of ethnic minority groups to the way that society has discriminated against them. Radical Social factors such as unemployment, poverty, poor housing and limited opportunities are the main cause of riots. Combine this with discrimination (such as “Stop & Search in Brixton, circa 1981) and riots become likely. Liberal Rioting is largely criminal and unjustifiable. New Right sociologists such as Murray argue that the subculture of the underclass embraces criminality and is to blame for rioting. He argues that the solution is to break the dependency culture which breeds such deviant values. Conservative
  • 10. The British National Party (BNP) and National Front (NF) have been accused of stirring up racial tensions, particularly in former industrial towns in the North of England where immigrant communities have been blamed for a decrease in opportunities and a downturn in economic activity. The Bradford and Oldham riots of 2001 are often cited as the point at which these tensions peaked. Communities in the areas were heavily segregated with many white people living in council estates – such housing segregation then inevitably leads to educational and social segregation and a ‘them and us’ view of the community. Whilst the government and community leaders blamed ‘thugs’ – these labels have been criticised by sociologists for ignoring the underlying social issues.
  • 11. Direct Action & Trade Unions
    • Strikes are when workers deliberately withdraw their labour under the direction of trade union leaders
    • Strikes are direct action by the worker against the employer – large scale strikes can be used to influence governments.
    • In the 1970s there were almost constant strikes, the Conservative government of the 1980s changed the law to make it more difficult to strike however these are still occurring and are expected to increase between now and 2015 due to spending cuts and pension reforms.
    Strikes are class based – the working class protesting against the employer or the state. Although trade unions are pressure groups, rather than NSMs, strikes are still a form of direct action
  • 12. Identity& Direct Action
    • Women have participated in ‘reclaim the night’ rallies against male sexual violence.
    • Disabled people have chained themselves to Downing Street in protest against social policies.
    • Muslim groups organised demonstrations against the Wars in Iraq & Afghanistan. Moderate groups have engaged with the political process by voting for candidates that opposed the war – radical groups reject this traditional political process.
    • Peaceful direct action such as sit-ins and marches was a constant feature of the civil rights movement in 1960s USA – with Rosa Parks and the boycott of the Montgomery buses being a prime example – only when bus segregation was laws were removed did black people begin using them again