"Throughout our history, and particularly since Victorian times, England has always been a land of protest; from 'The Women's Suffrage Movement' at the turn of the 19th/20th century, when women fought for the vote, through to 'The Jarrow Crusade' in 1936, when 200 men marched from Jarrow to London against mass unemployment and extreme poverty in the north-east of England. Sometimes, our protests represented petitions from large sectors of the community in want, whereas, on occasions, huge numbers of protestors have agitated on behalf of one person's right and freedom. High in the list of the country's protests was the 'Free Nelson Mandela' rallies of the 1960's/70's onward. 'The Battle of Orgreave' in 1984, involved police and mining pickets entering into physical confrontation with each other during the prolonged and bitter miner's strike. This mass protest was to witness the end of mining as the viable industry this country had known for the past 150 years, and led to the destruction of entire northern communities, and produced many lifelong disputes between brother and brother, father and son, who'd found themselves on different sides of the argument. Then, there were the 'Poll Tax Riots' of 1990 which led to a reversal of Government policy, and before we had barely entered the second decade of the New Millennium, the country was divided in protest once more by the referendum to stay or leave the European Union.
Whether it be fighting for votes, jobs, freedom of the individual, the right to picket, or the right to control our own destiny as a nation once more, England has always been a country of protest!
Every person of conviction must decide upon the type of protest that suits their persuasion, but where we perceive a great wrong to exist, we should protest! It is only through protest that the human race stays true to its conscience and sense of 'fair play,' and is allowed to healthily develop. I spent a part of my early working life as Great Britain's youngest shop steward, followed by a greater part, lasting almost thirty years, teaching people to express their feelings; particularly the ones that hurt themselves and others. I soon discovered that helping them to alter behaviour and situations they wanted to change was very much a personal protest!
I recall the 'Civil Rights Movement' in America during the 1960's and the frequent and bitter beatings black citizens got for refusing to accept segregation, the right to eat in the restaurant of their choice, drink from the same water fountain as white folk, use the same public toilets, sit in the seat of a bus up front, or have their children educated in schools alongside white pupils. As Martin Luther King Jr used to tell his people, 'If you can't fly, run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.'
Like many of the great crusaders who have gone before, I share their view that one never knows what is worth living for until you are without it and are prepared to die for it!
As protests movements advanced from those of Victorian times to the present day, the marchers seemed prepared to use a greater degree of force in order to have their protest heard. As the youngest shop steward in Great Britain at the age of 18 years, in 1961, I have always known that it doesn't take a majority to prevail and that an irate and angry workforce and the tireless minority is capable of setting brush fires in people's minds to spur them into action. My trade union days effectively taught me that a downtrodden class or group of workers will never make an effective protest until it achieves 'solidarity of mind and purpose'. I will never forget the power of 'Solidarity' demonstrated during the Polish strikes of 1986 when Lech Walesa created the first, public, legal Solidarity entity. He went on to serve as President of Poland between 1990-95. He achieved this through worker solidarity of purpose, just as during the 'winter of discontent' in 1978/79, the solidarity of the workers led to massive strikes that seriously inconvenienced the public and led to the defeat of the Labour Government in the polls by Margaret Thatcher.
Thatcher quickly determined to quash the power of the miner's union, which could, at its height, effectively guarantee firm and effective picket lines and trade-union solidarity. This was effectively achieved after the 'Battle of Orgreave' was won by the police and the government, but only after the right to hold mass demonstrations had been prevented and trade union funds sequestered. The splitting of trade union solidarity, weakened the miners, led to their eventual defeat and started the ball rolling for the emasculation of all other trade union movements in Great Britain. Even today, the miners and their families were recently denied the right to have 'The Battle of Orgreave' reviewed as the football supporters of Hillsborough did achieve. One of the main reasons cited was that no policeman had been convicted for their part at Orgreave despite all of the visible evidence to the contrary which is a matter of public record.
I have only been on one protest march in the whole of my life and that was in the late 1960s when I marched through Bradford with many students on a 'Free Nelson Mandela' march. Although he'd been imprisoned by the apartheid South African government in 1964 and wasn't freed until February 1990, many people from many countries continued to support his case for release throughout.
It was one of my greatest of pleasures in later life to have received a phone call from the great man himself in 2000 through the Home Office when he wanted to tell me that he had read three of my stories in one of my books about South Africa and found each a 'wonderful story.' He certainly proved to be a man who was worth marching and protesting for, who along with Mahatma Gandhi and St. Teresa of Calcutta, undoubtedly represented the most influential beings of the 20th century.
Far better to protest as men than to sin through one's silence. Not to protest an injustice is to become an accomplice to the act. I suppose that the more privileged we become, the harder it is to remain close to the poor and identify with their injustices. While there remains a lower class in England, I chose to stay in it, and while one just man remains imprisoned, I cannot view myself as being free. Often, all we can do in life is to speak up against perceived injustice, cruelty and inhumanity." William Forde: December 6th, 2016.
The three stories of mine that Nelson Mandela liked are now printed in one book, the 'Afro-Indian Dreams Trilogy', which is available in e-book format from www.smashwords.com or in paper/hard copy from www.lulu.com or amazon and is suitable for either child or adult readership:
with all profits from sales going to charity in perpetuity(over £200,000 since 1990).