Monday, 16 February 2009
FOOFTOP PROTEST AT PRESTON UNIVERSITY – A BOLD GESTURE AND A MISSED OPPURTUNITY 11.02.09
A group of anti-war campaigners were arrested today after staging a dramatic protest on the 50ft-high rooftop of the University of Central Lancashire.
The three protesters were perched precariously on the edge of the university's main building near the Adelphi roundabout, dressed in high-visibility jackets and carrying a megaphone and a 10ft banner, which flapped illegibly in the wind.
Within minutes of the protest breaking out, several police vans were on the scene along with 15 uniformed officers and several of the university’s security staff. Hundreds of onlookers, wondering how they might get to their next class, gathered to witness the spectacle unfold.
Rather than attempt to scale the roof themselves, like a strange collective magician the police produced a set of step-ladders from their armoured vehicle and asked the protesters to kindly come down - which, after around half an hour of walking around, they did.
Other than the occasional isolated cheer, the demonstration was greeted with puzzled smirks, a parade of uplifted mobile phone cameras and shouts of “sort your sign out” and “speak up a bit”, comments which roused a greater response than the campaigners' own.
The message concealed behind the largely inaudible ramblings from the megaphone was undermined throughout by the garbled delivery and listless, sweeping mentions of various (unconnected) wars and ‘causes’ currently ongoing around the world.
The protest by the Preston campaign group ‘Disobey’ was organised in response to the university’s affiliation with arms production company BAE Systems. The university owns over £20,000-worth of shares in BAE Systems and is involved in research projects linked to the company.
A day earlier the campaign group had assembled outside BAE’s Warton site to read out the names of children and young people who had died in Gaza.
The issue of arms development and the universities link therewith are clearly significant issues of public interest. But rather than bringing them to our attention by using unreadable cloth banners, dramatic stunts and megaphoned gibberish, surely organised and intelligent public debate is a more affective route to pursue, for both parties concerned.
Whilst there is no substitute, in terms of force-of-delivery, for a good-old-fashioned protest; in order to straighten out the facts and their implications in this matter, the debate chambers, rather than a windy rooftop on a Wednesday afternoon, is surely the most appropriate and constructive arena to provoke any serious or lasting change.