Its Impunity not Protest that is causing the riots to spread

AYM 9/8/11

Its impunity not protest that is causing the riots to spread in the UK.

Erin Wolson speaks of some of the causes at the heart of the riots in the UK.

While of course the inequalities within the UK economy, the sink estates of parts of urban areas and alienation from society forms some of the underlying cause for the #londonriots, the reason that the riots keep spreading is the impunity felt by the protesters.

Communities up and down the country are terrified of young hooded people destroying everything they hold dear. They don’t care about what community you are part of or how much you earn. Whether your shop is part of a big multinational, or part of the fabric of the local atmosphere. Even if you are part of the network that exists to reach out to disaffected youth you have been caught up in the rampage. Old, young, rich, poor, weak and strong – all have seen their cities closed down and become war zones.

Londoners are not ready to hear the causes underlying the riots until the destruction stops. When high streets across the capital need to close at 3pm in case they are destroyed – people are not looking for explanations but the rule of law. What has shocked London far more then the violence is the impunity of thugs on bikes to burn and rob as they wish. The police have appeared powerless.

The spread of the destruction is not due to common cause in any way shape or form – it is because the rioters feel that nothing will happen to them regardless of where they hit. The fear of the ordinary citizen has created a great community spirit during the day (#riotcleanup) and vigilantism by night.

UK citizens are expressing their support in by the hundreds of thousands for the police and are urging them to do what ever is necessary to restore law and order to the streets. Popular left wing MP’s such as Chuka Umunna (who represents one of London’s poorest districts) has called for a curfew and for Blackberry to ban BBM use between 6pm-6am.

In order to win London and the country over to deal with some of the underlying issues that can answer the question of why gangs of young people think it is ok to burn everything in their path – we first need to recognize that this is not a political protest. This is not an extension of the anti-cuts agenda – nor a spontaneous outpouring of anger due to social circumstance.  This is opportunistic looting, copycat protesting spurred on by the imagined impunity that the perpetrators are feeling.

The first step to dealing with this is to take away this imagined impunity and win back the streets. Once done we can speak about the underlying social factors. The voice of London and the UK in general is not one of understanding – until this is realized looking at causes will fall on deaf ears.

How OneVoice is creating links between offline and online activism

AYM 13/12/10

As a movement that has much offline capacity but a small, although growing, online presence, OneVoice decided in our newest campaign, Imagine 2018, to focus on online tactics in launching a national conversation.

We made sure to keep in mind everything that we learned in our more traditional work. And, as the project starts to gather steam, it may serve to exemplify the necessary linking between on and offline activism: we’re empowering people online in order link them up with a call for participation in offline actions.

One Voice to end the Israeli Palestinian Conflict

Before explaining the campaign, some background on our movement is important. OneVoice is an international grassroots movement that aims to amplify the voice of Israeli and Palestinian moderates, empowering them to seize back the agenda for conflict resolution and demand that their leaders achieve a two-state solution. Our activities work under our common message that is on the front page of our website that can be seen here.

Both OneVoice Israel and OneVoice Palestine are autonomously run nationalistic offices that aim to represent and mobilise the moderate majority voice in their own society for a two state solution. Each operates in its own nationalistic environment and the campaigns of the movement are run using themes that are relevant in each society while making sure they are true to the common message.

Imagine 2018’s aim is to ask people what they want to see when Israel hits its 70th birthday. If citizens cannot control what happens in the negotiations, we ask them the question what it is that they are aspiring too. By articulating the message it empowers the person to find a way to help make their vision a reality.

Asking Supporters to Make the Headlines – Literally

While in Palestine the narrative of the campaign is building Palestine to end the occupation, in Israel the need is focused on breaking Israeli apathy and fatalistic pessimism around the future. Israel is a high tech society with 71.6% of the country online. One only needs to look at Hebrew language Facebook pages and talkbacks (comments on news articles) on websites to see a dynamic discussion.

Taking the theme of ‘Israel Tomorrow’ OneVoice Israel designed a Facebook app that would allow the user to pick a picture and write their own headline of what they would like the newspapers to read in the year 2018. OneVoice Israel has chapters on seven campuses and using their offline activist network they trained their youth leaders to advertise the campaign by blitzing ‘talkbacks’ on popular newspaper sites with 2018 references and links.

Alongside the talkback blitz, OneVoice Israel printed copies of their newspaper to politicians, trend setters and opinion formers with their name as the headline and a tag line of ‘thank you for helping create a two state solution.’

The campaign has been running for two weeks and so far the results have been promising – Facebook presence has increased by 300% and the movement has been recognized by government minsters and celebrities.

Takeaways so far

Links between movements and their supporters need to be more than a Facebook click. At the same time, a society that has no appetite (or is too scared) to take to the streets needs a different way to be engaged in activism. Digital activism, when linked up to an ability to participate with a concrete action, gives members an entry level option to become engaged from their own computer.

Moving from being a supporter to a member to an activist to a leader is a process that should be available in every movement. Those with no real activity for its membership to engage with other then digesting information will struggle to move people along this chain. Those which have only time consuming activities but no simple collaborative projects which can bind people to a movement will be able to create a few activists but few committed members.

At OneVoice, we are trying to keep these tenets in mind as we bring our campaigns into the online space. We hope we’re accomplishing this, but would welcome any suggestions or other comments!