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The Rise Of The 'More Radical' Protester | The Nation

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Allison Kilkenny

Allison Kilkenny

Budget wars, activism, uprising, dissent and general rabble-rousing.

The Rise Of The 'More Radical' Protester

In the past year, a series of mass protests and revolutions have swept the globe, exploding in Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, Greece, Italy, Spain, the United Kingdom, the United States, Canada, Russia and Mexico, among other countries. The Financial Times called 2011 the "Year Of Global Indignation," while the Guardian's John Harris called comparisons made by individuals observing the modern global awakening to Paris in 1968 "not completely misplaced."

Now, political scientists in Russia are making a prediction that shouldn't come as surprising to close observers of international protests. Igor Bunin, president of the Center for Political Technologies, predicts that Russia may soon experience the rise of a radical new breed of protester.

"On the one hand, it seems to me that the protest movement will be more radical, more social, younger and more ready for direct actions," Bunin predicted.

Bunun predicts the opposition will disappear from the streets because they aspire to "real participation in the election progress."

"The spirit of the protest movement is now different from December 2011; this spirit is more of a spirit of social conflict and is more radical,” he warned. “The leaders are different, the liberal movement has become weak, while younger people – those who were born in the late 1980s – are now taking part in protests.”

Russia is currently waiting for the verdict from the Pussy Riot trial to be handed down. Three members of the feminist punk-rock collective known for staging political impromptu performances all across Moscow went on trial in Moscow two weeks ago. Most recently, the group held an anti-Vladmir Putin demonstration inside a cathedral, an act which may now land the women in jail for up to seven years.

The trio have been charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility” for their performance in February when they entered the Christ Saviour Cathedral, ascended the altar and called on the Virgin Mary to “throw Putin out!”

RT reports another analyst, Igor Yurgens, head of the Institute for Modern Development, says the number of protest participants may increase if the economic situation in the country deteriorates sharply, a safe prediction given economic strife was a key component in every single mass protest witnessed thus far. Although, Yurgens says he doesn't see the economic situation in Russia deteriorating in that fashion, a conjecture that brings to mind Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke testifying before the House Financial Services Committee that everything was just dandy in the housing market before the entire thing blew up.

It's unclear here what the title "radical" means, though it appears to have something to do with direct action, a method of protest on the rise across the globe that involves usually nonviolent demonstrations such as strikes, occupations, graffiti and sabotage (among other property destruction), hacktivisim, blockades, etc. Basically, "direct action" simply means protesters refuse to adhere to the ridiculously repressive restrictions placed upon protest by the government wherein demonstrators in the United States, for example, need a permit to do everything from march to use a bullhorn, and then they're ultimately caged in by the police anyway.

Direct action is a way for the people to take back the power.

It's safe to say these Russian theorists' predictions are correct, namely because tough economic times always equal more protests, not just in Russia, but anywhere in the world, and protesters have now had a taste of success when implementing direct action. Protests had become something of a joke pre-2011, exercises in futility, remnants of a bygone era of hippies and flower children, but starting in 2011, they took on a new powerful purpose.

Direct action has become the last tool of resistance against a massive, seemingly indestructible machine of over-consumption and waste. Environmental activists are pioneers in the resistance field, mostly because physically occupying space or blocking industry shipments are literally the only means they have to save the planet.

Now, there is heightened interest in their methods.

Candace Bernd in Truthout recently documented her experience meeting with young US environmental activists, who she says are "willing to put their bodies on the line, risk arrest and spend hours and hours in weather upwards of 100 degrees in Texas to train techniques that will mitigate the effects of global change."

If one thing is sure, this summer won't be remembered as one where young environmentalists twiddled their thumbs while wild fires broke out across Colorado and record temperatures were set across the nation. Instead, this summer will go down as one of the hottest, not only in terms of temperature, but also in terms of resistance.

Climate justice organizers with Rising Tide North Texas (including myself), publicly launched the Tar Sands Blockade, a nonviolent direct action to stop the southern leg of the Keystone XL pipeline in Texas, with a little help from our friends at 350.org last month, and so far the response to our effort has been overwhelming.

We just wrapped up the Texas Keystone Convergence, a regional training effort that brought in roughly 70 climate justice activists primarily from southern states to learn how to use nonviolent direct action effectively.

Will protesters become "more radical"? Probably, yes, but that diagnosis shouldn't necessarily alarm anyone. If "radical" means an increase in non-violent direct action, then this is cause to celebrate.

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