Peoples' movements and protests




Violent demonstrations do not exist





by Jan Wiklund



Violent demonstrations? Forget about it. They don't exist. If protesters use violence, it's usually two or three people - even if tens of thousands participate in the demonstration itself.

The person who says this is Randall Collins, who with his students has looked at thousands of journalistic films and still photos.

The two or three violent ones are usually accompanied by a small group of perhaps a dozen. Their job is to incite from behind; without it, the two or three violent ones would not have the energy to behave violently.

The rest of the participants from Collins' survey material stay in the background - disinterested, or outright dismissive.

One might ask where the phrase "violent demonstrations" comes from. Collins does not answer this, but one can imagine different answers.

One is that it is an inflammatory expression that the media use to sell. Even though they can never substantiate it in their reports.

Another is that it is the police who coin it; after all, they are usually where the violence takes place and are naturally excited by it. Violence, as Collins points out, is something we humans are bad at and get extremely nervous about. Even police officers.

One is that it is the target of the demonstration that tries to portray themselves as peaceful and their opponents as shady characters. The latter was the case, for example, in Gothenburg in 2001.

Probably all three apply.

One thing we can learn from this is that it is easy to hijack a demonstration and steal attention from the issues it is about. If you want to avoid this, you need to have demonstration guards.



Published by Folkrörelsestudiegruppen: