As protesters once again took to the streets of London to voice their discontent, it seems that a lot of  hot energy is being wasted on something that ultimately lacks results

 

On November 5th, London prepared itself for what is now an annual tradition. Londoners living near the city centre such as myself grabbed a pair of earplugs and shut themselves in their homes, avoiding tourist traps such as Trafalgar Square, the Houses of Parliament, and Westminster Bridge. However this was not in response to Bonfire Night celebrations, as the promised fireworks (which I was actually looking forward to) by Westminster did not occur. Instead, I’m referring to the annual Million Mask March, a massive protest hosted by hacktivist organisation, Anonymous. Though largely a peaceful protest, there were some that refused to leave when the protest was over, insisting on causing mayhem. Rabble-rousers torched a police car, injured some officers (three were sent to the hospital), and even attempted to throw fireworks at the Houses of Parliament.

Though I will reiterate, most protesters were peaceful and compliant with officers, this destructive behaviour got me thinking about the Million Mask March’s overall effectiveness. What is the purpose of the event as a whole? Considering participants of the march range from dedicated hacktivists to overly enthusiastic fans of the film V for Vendetta, it’s difficult to tell what message the event is trying to send. And so, I took to Anonymous’ Facebook page to learn more of the specifics about what it is they are fighting for. Their mission statement goes as follows:

‘We have seen the abuses and malpractice of this government, and governments before it, we have seen the encroaching destruction of many civil liberties we hold dear, we have seen the pushes to make the internet yet another part of the surveillance state, we have seen the government’s disregard for migrants, for the poor, the elderly and the disabled, we have seen the capital, profit and greed of the few put before the well-being of the many and we say enough is enough’.

Though their concerns are understandable and laudable, still, Anonymous’ demands are quite vague. The mission statement further states that the goal of the protest is to ‘see a positive change’. How do the protesters expect to achieve this? Through a change in the power structure? Or does Anonymous hold true to its anti-establishment platform and want dissolution of the government?

The ambiguities surrounding the Million Mask March’s goals are precisely what make it ineffective. While a mission statement appealing to the lowest common denominator guarantees more participants, a ‘positive change’ is not as certain if the march proposes no real, cohesive solution. These marches are reminiscent of the Anonymous-supported Occupy Wall Street protests in Zucotti Park. While Occupy protesters agreed on the fact that income inequality and wealth distribution in America was unfair and unjust, most of them did not share a consensus or an idea of how to go about fixing the problem.

While being a good cause, a lack of cohesiveness in the movement meant that the protesters could not occupy Zucotti Park for long; by the 15th of November, the park was vacated.

The case seems to be that grand-scale protests can only receive the desired legislative responses when they tackle a concise topic, and offer specific workable solutions. In comparison, movements such as Black Lives Matter have made better progress as its platform has buckled down on the topic of police brutality. As a result, small but significant progress is made: just last month California governor Jerry Brown signed legislation that prevents police officers from tampering with dashboard and body camera footage.

While one could applaud the Million Mask March’s audacity in daring to tackle so many issues at once, the fact of the matter remains that no movement can accommodate a variety of beliefs without becoming fractured.

Anonymous need to diagnose what they believe is ill with society more accurately and provide concrete evidence that supports their claims, as abstract calls for hope and justice are simply not convincing enough. And perhaps most importantly, some participants’ notion that the United Kingdom is a fascist state is too far-fetched for the majority of the public to get behind. This concoction of alienating statements, a lack of coherence and solutions will not hold the attention of the non-members currently participating. For them, the next year will likely bring a new cause to latch on to.

The Million Mask March needs to find a more consistent platform, perhaps then, the movement will be able to replicate this year’s turnout on more than one occasion.

Sources:

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/the-triumph-of-occupy-wall-street/395408/

https://www.facebook.com/events/485894658146587/

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-34744710

http://www.latimes.com/local/politics/la-me-pol-sac-brown-racial-profiling-20151004-story.html