Radical Christian pacifists have signed a statement declaring their support for students who occupied the Conservative Party headquarters in Millbank during a demonstration on Wednesday (10 November) against increases in tuition fees.
The statement follows criticism of the mainstream media for their coverage of the event. Critics say that much of the media failed to distinguish between protesters who broke the law while remaining peaceful and those who engaged in violence.
The President of the National Union of Students (NUS), Aaron Porter, has also been criticised for condemning all those who entered the Millbank offices, with no distinction between the violent and the peaceful.
The radical Christian signatories, many of whom are students, suggest that the coverage has “tried to tar all who entered the courtyards and buildings of Millbank Tower on Wednesday with the same brush”.
Signatories so far include Rev Ray Gaston, a Methodist minister, along with the Christian blogger Graham Martin and Christian anarchists such as Tim Saunders, who was outside Millbank at the time of the occupation.
They insist that the majority of the occupiers behaved peacefully and that those who turned to violence were discouraged by their follow protesters. They suggest that, “had people not spoken out from within the crowd, we believe more items would have been thrown and more injuries would have occurred”.
According to the statement, the “real unreported story” is about “how hundreds managed to differentiate between forcing their way into a building highly symbolic of the holding of power by an unjust elite, and the need to remain mindful of the potential for useless human suffering”
The demonstration was called jointly by the NUS and the University and College Union (UCU) and drew around 50,000 protesters, mostly students, to the streets of London. They are campaigning against government plans to raise the limit for annual university tuition fees to £9,000 per year.
Christian groups participating in the demonstration included the Student Christian Movement (SCM) and the Speak Network, although neither has commented formally on the Millbank occupation.
Those who have signed the statement backing nonviolent direct action at Millbank are urging other Christians to add their signatures.
They declare that, “Jesus’ actions in the temple were similarly shocking to the establishment – and though we cannot and should not claim God’s carte blanche blessing on these actions, we feel it more Christlike to stand up for those being singled out and vilified for taking a stand than to passively accept the state’s condemnation of them”.
The Christian statement makes clear that its signatories “condemn violence against human beings,” but they attack attitudes that regard “window-breaking and the injuring of humans as being equal”.
“The pacifism we support is not the idealistic liberalism that stands passive against injustice or the peace brought by the truncheon and surveillance, but a pacifism that upholds justice,” insist the signatories.
They continue, “The Pax Britannica that the Metropolitan Police supposedly failed to maintain is built on domination and injustice, and no more represents our vision of the Kingdom [of God] than the actions of the acute minority like the person who threw the fire extinguisher from the roof”.
The statement concludes by condemning the violence of “the few in our society who are seeking to re-arrange life along the lines of neo-liberalism, focusing wealth into fewer and fewer hands and destroying the future of an entire generation of ordinary people”.