Prepare to Protest in 2012
I was thrilled last year to take part in the Black Tuesday protests against the Protection of State Information Bill (also gloomily known as the “Secrecy Bill”).
More interesting was watching the trendy journalists from Cape Town’s various media houses wobble and warble outside parliament in fashionable black stilettos, skinny up-turned jeans and wide-brimmed sun hats… and then the female journalists arrived…
Watching the drama unfold, it became clear that for many whitey journos this was their first real protest, the first time they’d managed to drag themselves away from following Beyonce pregnancy updates on Twitter to get their moisturised hands dirty on the mean streets of the protest scene.
It was certainly the first full-on protest I’d ever taken part in and, while I was expecting more tear gas, rubber bullets and perhaps the odd water cannon to enliven proceedings, I still left feeling fulfilled in the knowledge that I was now an enemy of the state.
But I wasn’t happy with my preparation. So I’ve mulled it over and come up with a check-list for first-time protesters to follow, should they wish to unnerve the dastardly government in 2012, or even their nearest malfunctioning municipality office.
If you’re protesting in summer and you have a fair skin, take your sunblock. I made this fatal error on Black Tuesday last November and paid the price. I could only protest for 37 minutes in the Cape summer heat. A solid factor 50 should allow for maximum picketing time.
Also, it didn’t help that the agitating organisers chose black as the colour of their discontent. It attracts the heat something terribly in the CBD. So a note to all anti-government instigators: trending summer protest colours for 2012 are whites, beiges and pastels. Black will do just fine for winter.
Correct footwear is also essential. Slip-slops just won’t do, nor will murderous heels. Running shoes, preferably a stability shoe like the Nike Pegasus 28, will allow you to stand for hours on end hollering abuse at your nearest ineffectual MP. Plus, when the rubber bullets and water cannons arrive (or, hopefully, full-blown rioting starts), you can beat a hasty retreat without fear of getting your toes crushed or toppling over in the melee.
Take a sign. This is very important. I arrived outside parliament full of shouty intent. But then felt completely ineffective due to my lack of sign. Your sign can say anything; it doesn’t necessarily have to refer to the protest in question, but it feels good to thrust something in the air other than your fist.
As you’ll have noticed over the years at cricket and other sporting events, South Africans are not particularly creative when it comes to homemade signage (recent uninspired examples include: “Steyn for President”, “Kallis for President” and the ever popular “Polly for President”, which I guess does have the benefit of some slight alliteration).
A favourite TV series catchphrase, something non-sequiturish to the protest (eg “Illusion, Michael, a trick is something a prostitute does for money”), or even a generic “ANC/DA/IFP is rubbish” adds a little more spark than “So-and-so for President”. Another trending favourite for disgruntled signage is to compare the current government to the apartheid regime. That always rankles.
One for the road
Lastly, if you’re a whitey and intend on protesting anything in 2012 – you should, trust me, it’s better than wailing on online comments sections – have a drink. No more than two, if one’s not enough. White South Africans are simply not relaxed enough to let it all go in the name of their favoured cause.
While the white turn-out was commendable at the Black Tuesday protest last year, the atmosphere was more akin to a pre-happy hour meet and greet session, where absolutely no-one has let their hair down yet. White protesters where representing and fighting the good fight, but there were many self-conscious glances flying around as the singing and dancing became more upbeat.
Initially, everyone was quite happy to mill around and listen to the speakers’, nodding in grave agreement. But once they departed and the singing and dancing started, the whiteys started staring in nervous horror at each other – “now what?” said their worried looks.
A quick nip en route to your protest, two beers or a chilled glass of wine should get you in the mood to throw revolutionary caution to the wind. Amandla. Awethu.
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