Protest Laws and the Spark that Lit Ukraine

Protest Laws and the Spark that Lit UkraineThe situation in Ukraine is looking increasingly beyond repair. The Russian army have occupied the Eastern Ukraine province, known as Crimea, and have forced a referendum. It will be held this Sunday and could see the annexation of Crimea back into Russian control.

If the people of Crimea wish to return to Russian rule, then this would be a positive move. However, as this referendum has been forced upon them at short notice and under military occupation, their true opinions on the allegiance of their homeland will almost certainly be adversely affected.

However, we would like to draw attention to how this situation came to be. The initial spark: the protests in Independence Square.

Why the protests started

Ukrainians took to the streets of Kiev in their tens of thousands, furious about a bill that had been submitted to parliament that would, effectively, make the right to protest illegal in the Ukraine.
It’s hard at this early stage to place a solid death toll as the situation is still developing. The latest figures we can find by Reuters quote over 100 dead and over 500 injured. Their own police force opened fire on the protestors.

UK parallels

The discontent in Ukraine follows on from similar uprisings in Syria, Libya, Egypt and Tunisia in recent years. Now, it seems the unrest has reached Europe. Although other countries may now follow, it is startling to note that similar laws to which Ukrainians were willing to die to resist are already in effect here in the UK. A live court case is currently ongoing featuring the trial of Dominic O’Hara, who was arrested in July 2013 and charged with using a megaphone in a public place.

Mr O’Hara was protesting against the implementation of Bedroom Tax on the people of Scotland and was arrested in Glasgow on these trivial grounds.

This is not an isolated incident. The Fight Racism Fight Imperialism pressure group has been banned from setting up street stalls on the grounds of distributing literature without a license. Their zine promotes an anti-corporate stance. In addition to this, any pressure group in the UK must first ask the respective city council for permission: a proposal that could be rejected, or neutralised with diversions.

Media reporting

It was saddening to see the Ukraine protestors canonised in the mainstream British press as fighting to join the European Union and escaping Russia’s clutches. The Sun, for example, ran a front page splash on Vladimir Putin last week with the headline ‘Bad Vlad Addicted to Botox’ against a picture of the Russian President topless.

Next to the reality of the situation, that story appears cartoon-like in its execution: the Russian bad guy can be mocked and lampooned in the British press, while painting the Western European states as ‘the good guys’, refusing to relate the correlation between Russian involvement in Ukraine and Anglo-American involvement in the Middle-East which has been ongoing for the past 12 years.

The Sun’s remit is not to challenge the reader’s opinions with facts, only to entertain them with familiar narratives and titillation with a topless shot of Putin. Meanwhile, more credible newspapers, have chosen not to highlight the similarities between the offending bill against protesting in the Ukraine and the quietly passed bill restricting the effectiveness of protests here in the UK, for fear of educating their readers on the global corruption that is widespread, that bubbles beneath the veil of celebrity culture and meaningless political debates in the front pages.