As news of the tragedy of the Charleston massacre spread to the rest of the world, I was overseas traveling in London. When the general sentiment on my social networks turned from sadness and anger to talk of protest about the Confederate flag on the South Carolina Statehouse grounds, I was disappointed to miss a chance to communally grieve and take a public stand against racism. That very day as I was walking around St. Paul’s Cathedral, I surprisingly happened upon a large peaceful protest filling the entire street and bringing traffic to a halt. I asked passersby, and no one had any idea who the protesters were or what they were protesting.
As I walked through on my way to the Thames, I took pictures of the signs and the people. The papers reported this event as a general protest against austerity cuts. However, the incredible variety of political stands was amazing from “Defy Tory Rule”
to “Thai Junta must go,” and even “Woodcraft Folk Span the World in Friendship.”
The art of this protest presents in the signs themselves – the design of the logo, stitching in the cloth, fringed edges, carved wooden handles, and the bold statements or the catchy phrasing all suggest these protestors are perhaps accustomed to meeting in living rooms, town halls, and public spaces for the purpose of getting involved in decisions of our government. The quality and planning of the street signs of this protest caused me to wonder if I spent enough time in political pursuits. I have often loudly shared my political opinions in bars and restaurant, but rarely do I make the time for political activism.
Standing in the crowd I heard muttered remarks of “Why aren’t they at work?” “Don’t they have something better to do?” and “It’s so annoying blocking traffic.” I disagree with the naysayers, and I fully support the art of the protest. I believe, if the government has ignored the rights of the people, it’s time to take to the streets. I propose that the protest, in its highest form, is not only an art that transmits noble ideas, but it is also a political obligation, one sadly ignored much like the obligation to vote.
I respect this act of protest, and I hope to take part in more protests to bring about the much needed change in my country.
Photo Credits: Betty Ford