We are in a period of protest, you can see it regularly on your TV or social media. Much of it takes a tried and tested form, which helps people join in with it – you already know the script. In Brazil at the moment people are banging their pots and pans at dusk [Cacerolazo), which if enough people do it across a city is a powerful sound of dissent and dissatisfaction. It is also easy to do, just grab a pan, open the window and hammer away with a wooden spoon. But others are busy innovating with new forms of protest and two have caught my eye this week.
The first is a mass donation of blood. Tired of the routine denigration that Polish people suffer in the UK at the hands of the press, a group of Polish Londoners are going to all donate blood into the NHS’s supplies on the 20th of August. This is seen as a positive alternative to a strike that Polish workers are planning for a few days later. The symbolism is obvious that whatever the rightwing press might say, Poles and the British are bound together by a shared history of sacrifice and struggle, the institutionalised altruism that is the NHS and the blood donation service is an acute example of that bond. Other British Poles or Polish Londoners have written about the contribution that they as migrants have made to the UK and denigration that they often receive in return. Mass acts have a long history in protest but a mass donation plays with those logics in creative ways.
The second tweak of a popular protest theme is the milk bucket challenge, playing with the ‘ice bucket challenge’ of the past 12 months. In this farmers are drenched in milk, because as one them observes – ‘it is cheaper than water’. Using self-made videos and tropes from YouTube it is a twist that makes a point and signals the emergence of farmer protests into social media. The deliberate wastage of food is done to make a point, connecting contemporary debates about food scarcity and poverty with its ubiquity.
In both protests there is also the bodily; a visceral connection being suggested between liquids that are the stuff of life. There has been much debate as to whether the networked forms of protest that are rife, switching Facebook photos, clicking yes or tweeting constitute a meaningful form of protest. These small wrinkles in protest tactics and scripts suggest that new ideas are appearing to enable people to express their dissent.