Opinion: Lib Demonstrating – Let’s be bold, loud and visible!

Human Rights Act DemoSaturday 30th May was one of the best political days I’ve had in years. Not only was I demonstrating in support of the Human Rights Act but I was doing so with hundreds of other Liberal Democrats. Too much of our protesting in recent years has been behind the scenes. I wasn’t a member of the party when Charles Kennedy was proudly leading Liberal Democrats in opposition to the Iraq war, but it meant a lot to me and stuck with me. I think it’s time to get out there again – make sure our fellow citizens can see the #fightback!

The human rights demonstration was so inspiring for me not just because we were out there in force again – with our leaders, our activists, our banners, and so on, but because we were there with our supporters too. I spoke with lots of people who were not party members, but many of whom were thinking about joining and were taking the opportunity to chat with our leadership contenders as well as activists like me. They appreciated us being there. And it was really nice to be there with them.

Being visible; being seen to stand up for people and stand with people is one of the ways we can and must rebuild. So I’ve created the Lib Demonstrators Facebook page and invite you all to join or ‘like’, and invite others to do so. It is there so that we can:

  • Advertise and promote Liberal Democrat participation in marches and demonstrations
  • Have a focal point for people thinking about attending to get in touch with each other, confirm plans and build momentum and confidence
  • Be a way for people showing up late to a demonstration to contact other party members and find out which landmark they’re in front of
  • Share banners, graphics, advice and other resources

The page is not tied in to supporting any particular cause or event. It is there for Lib Dems to organise and coordinate and to raise the profile of the party. I expect that it will be pretty London-centric, but there is no reason why the page can’t be used to organise attendance at events in other locations around the country.

So, if you think the party should be represented at a march, please advertise it on the page and find out who else is thinking about going. I would love to make representatives from the various AOs and SAOs admins so that the Green Liberal Democrats can use the page to promote a Lib Dem contingent at the Day of Action on Climate Change next week and the Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform can get together a group of party members to attend the Great Gathering for Voting Reform in July, and so on. I invite you all to use the page, organise, promote the party and promote the causes we believe in. Let’s demonstrate again.

Jonathan Brown is an activist from Chichester, an executive committee member of the Ethnic Minority Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine and a Syrian rights campaigner.

* Jonathan Brown is the Prospective Parliamentary Candidate of the Chichester Party and founder of the Liberal Democrats for Free Syria.

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  • This is very true. In the last decade or so we’ve become too comfortable and (small c) conservative. We’re not really the sort of people who go on marches any more. Well, we should be! As you say, its not only an important way of campaigning but also great fun and a good tram-building experience, especially for new members.

  • Good sense from Jonathan Brown.
    It will not appeal to passive, armchair members but the sort of activity he is promoting will bring together and enthuse activists and create a presence alongside like-minded people from pressure groups and elsewhere.

  • Forget Human Rights – one question both leadership contenders must face up to – Yellow or Orange? This pic looks like 2 different parties – so come on Tim and Norman – which is it? Chickeny yellow or the Future is orange? I am not biased.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 11th Jun '15 - 12:13pm

    What a great idea, Jonathan! These events give us a real chance to engage with others who might agree with us on other issues, too, as well as fighting for causes we believe in.

  • I think it’s a great idea to promote causes and share resources to get ourselves noticed – one thing I will suggest is that we hold rallies/marches in areas where traditionally they don’t happen (ie smaller rural towns rather than large urban centres) in order to make the most impact

  • Great idea!

  • Jonathan Brown 11th Jun '15 - 6:03pm

    @Alex H – I agree. There are definitely things we can do to raise our profile and campaign on issues of importance to towns and regional cities too. It may be that such marches are more effectively organised via a local party’s facebook page rather than this one, but if the organisers genuinely think that the march will interest party members from a wider area to come and take part, then they are welcome to use it.

    I mainly see this as being a way to effectively organise Lib Dems going to larger events where we’re not going to be the only people taking part, but the page is there to be useful to us in whatever way we need it to be.

    @JohnTilley – quite right. Marching isn’t for everyone, but those it does appeal to it can be great fun and can be a very effective campaigning tool.

    I didn’t mention in my article but masses of us went off to a nearby pup afterwards which made the whole day even more fun and sociable. People I’d missed at the march I was able to catch up with afterwards. And again, some new members and potential members came along too. It was great!

  • Jonathan Brown 11th Jun '15 - 6:06pm

    I’ve just noticed that the links don’t appear to have survived publication…

    Here is the page itself: https://www.facebook.com/LibDemonstrators

    Please come and join!

  • Eddie Sammon 11th Jun '15 - 6:54pm

    Just liked the page. As Caron says: people demonstrating for good causes need to be able to communicate and this could be one useful forum. Lib Dems may only have 8 MPs, but 60,000 members is significant.

  • Jonathan Brown 11th Jun '15 - 7:48pm

    Thanks Caron for fixing the links!

    And yes Eddie Sammon – demonstrating is a good way of using the resources we do still have!

  • Right on track. Excellent ideas. Love the practical focus of the Facebook page! Great job Jonathan!

  • That’s a resounding YES from me.

  • Absolutely right Jonathan. Following you on facebook.

  • Sounds an excellent idea. marching not for all of us. But on the march against the war in Iraq there were lots of people (mainly women) who had never been on one before, never been very interested in politics who had to join in. Quite a lot marched with the LibDems. I think they saw us as a friendly group.

  • We need to be careful about marches – they have the potential to alienate as well as enthuse because there is always the possibility that they will be hijacked by disruptive elements.

  • (Matt Bristol) 12th Jun '15 - 12:08pm

    TCO — I agree there is a risk demonstrations can be hijacked, but that’s why LibDem marchers need to have clear LibDem branded banners, signs, etc and be clear and organised about why they are there.This is what Jonathon Pile seems to be proposing and I think it’s a good idea.

    We need to take a page out of the SWP rulebook (I can’t believe I just said that). I am sick of them hijacking every demo ever. The appropriate response to that hijcaking is not to stop turning up to demos. But yes, it should not be taken as read that every demo organised by any given campaign is a good hting for LibDems to be on in a ‘me-too’ way.

  • John Tilley I am an armchair member but I resent the adjective passive. I have been very active in the past, leader of our Council group and Chair of Housing but can no longer do this because I have ME. Don’t assume because some members don’t go on demos that they don’t care, they may be totally passionate about what happens to the party and to the country.

  • Jonathan Brown 14th Jun '15 - 4:22pm

    @Sue S – Fair point, although to be fair to John Tilley I don’t think he would have been including you in his ‘passive’ description. Some people join the party because they want to support us but don’t have the time or inclination to get involved with things. So they probably won’t want to come on demonstrations with us! But that doesn’t matter.

    @TCO – Just because some people cause trouble doesn’t mean we should be prevented from or feel like we shouldn’t march for the things we believe in. @Matt Bristol – quote right. (My name is Brown, not Pile, but that is indeed what I’m proposing!)

    @Sadie – I didn’t go on the Iraq war demos as I was out of the country (actually, I went to a very small one in Israel at the time) but you’re quite right. That’s exactly what the mood was at the Human Rights demo, and that can only be something we should want to repeat.

    Thanks everyone for the comments – and for joining the facebook page.

  • Jonathan Brown 14th Jun '15 - 5:16pm

    Would like to add a quick housekeeping note to make clear that the photo was taken by Graham Neale, of http://www.liberaldemocratradio.com fame! Thanks Graham!

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