Street protests are common these days. Today the BBC highlighted violence in western China caused by fighting between the government and the local Uighur people. The big summer news has been the uprising in Iran over the alleged stolen election there. Then there is the Tea Party movement, less violent groups in the USA protesting the increased role of government in their lives. This movement has gotten less play in the mainstream media than the other two.
Whether or not these protests are thought of as noble or just another example of the “mob” trying to assert itself depends on one’s point of view. For example, The Chinese government cited Al Qaida involvement in their clash with the Uighurs, while the BBC’s reporter asserted that this was an ethnic struggle, not one involving Islam.
Of course, violent protest is nothing new. But many times the party attempting to control the violence is the one who defines whether or not the protest is legitimate. Gary Nash, in his work “The Unknown American Revolution: The Unruly Birth of Democracy and the Struggle to Create America”, describes how the lower classes in American were involved in violent protests against the British in te 1760s and 1770s. Nash notes how those who levelled the houses of government leaders involved in administering the detested Stamp Act were labelled as “the mob” by aristocrats. Yet, American history treats the cry against this British policy as a valid revolt against oppression.
Violent protest is sometimes necessary. The necessity occurs because those doing the protesting cannot get their grievances heard in any other way. Those in power sometimes squelch dissent to such a degree that those who disagree with their policies have no other choice but to revolt. This seems to be the case in China and Iran. And while the tea parties have not resorted to violence, it would come as no surprise if in the near future there are violent protests in the USA. Opponents of the Obama administration are not getting their voices heard for many reasons. One of the most noticeable causes is what Bernard Goldberg, a former reporter and now an ombudsman, calls the “slobbering love affair” the American media has with Barack Obama.