The Tory MP grabbed a peaceful protester by the neck – will he suffer the same consequences as the milkshake demonstrators?
Politicians have always been partial to a little hypocrisy – whether that’s in the form of recreational drug use, ‘honouring’ Grenfell while failing survivors and high-rise residents, or denouncing milkshake protests but claiming racism is just free speech.
As Paul Crowther – the hero who simply threw a milk-based beverage on Nigel Farage – gets hit with 150 hours of community service and a £350 dry cleaning bill for the abhorrent Brexit Party leader, Tory MP Mark Field has grabbed a Greenpeace activist by the neck and marched her out of a room. Will he face further punishment than his suspension? Will he fuck.
Though many people are rightfully outraged and are calling for Field to resign, numerous politicians are speaking out in support of the MP, claiming he acted in self defence. Given the activist in question was unarmed – a ridiculous thing for me to even need to clarify, could she nick him with her Greenpeace sash? – peacefully protesting climate change, and literally walking around him, it’s ridiculous to excuse Field’s use of excessive violence against a woman as an act of self defence.
In a meek apology statement given to ITV, Field claimed “there was no security present” – though footage shows there clearly was – and that “for a split-second” he was “genuinely worried she might have been armed”. He goes on to say: “In the current climate I felt the need to act decisively to close down the threat to the safety of those present.” Let’s unpack this, shall we.
Firstly there’s an almost comical irony here of a Tory politician assaulting someone trying to raise awareness about our crumbling planet while lavishing a banquet at a black-tie dinner. After the incident, chancellor Philip Hammond quipped that it was ironic how the protest was targeted at “the government who has just led the world by committing to a zero carbon economy by 2050”, despite this target date slammed as being too late to actually make change.
Field asserts that he believed the protesters were armed – not only do we live in the UK where gun laws are much stricter than in the US, but what would Greenpeace activists get out of shanking mid-level politicians in the name of climate change? Your brain has to be absolute Brexit mush to think a group of women in red dresses with ‘climate emergency’ sashes are about to fuck you up.
Politicians use this ‘fear’ argument in order to justify violent reactions, despite knowing they’re in the wrong – both at the time and after the event. Take ‘egg boy’ (AKA Will Connolly) as a perfect example – Fraser Anning literally punched a 17-year-old boy in the face after he cracked an egg on his head, and got off scot-free while Connolly got a police caution.
“The immense privilege of Field to act so abhorrent in a room full of apathetic bystanders is an apt shot of the right wing”
The fact that politicians immediately turn to violence when ‘threatened’ by protesters – and typically face no major punishment for it – leaves little opportunity for activism of any kind. How can the public peacefully protest, protected by the law, if those in charge are exempt from the rules they strictly enforce?
Some people on Twitter have been quick to defend Field’s actions by comparing the situation to the tragic murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in 2016, suggesting that MPs need to be more vigilant than ever. Not only is this disgustingly disrespectful to Cox and her relatives, but it also completely misses the point. Cox was murdered by a man swayed by far-right ideology – someone who used violence against peaceful speech. Using her murder as justification for violence against women is absolutely abhorrent.
Discussing the incident on Good Morning Britain, presenter Iain Dale said: “Are we going to have a situation where any protester can go into any room and disrupt any event with no consequences?”
According to the Human Rights Act, “everybody has a right to a peaceful protest and no restrictions shall be placed on this unless it is in the interests of national security, public safety, or for the prevention of disorder or crime.” Dale’s statement enforces many politicians’ views that protesters are criminals who – rather than speaking up about important issues being ignored by our government – are making a fuss and should be chastised accordingly, even if that means violence.
Take Jo Cox's name out of your fucking mouth when you're defending a violent man grabbing a woman by the throat when she made him feel a bit uncomfortable at a corporate dinner. The person who murdered Jo Cox was more similar to Mark Field than to a climate activist.— Another Angry Woman (@stavvers) June 21, 2019
Stepping away from the fact that, as someone in the Dazed office eloquently put it, Field has “a real ‘put your hands on the car and get ready to die’ vibe”, his supporters believe aggression is justified in the face of adversity. Boris Johnson, the man that’s likely about to lead our country, continues to spout racist and misogynistic language that’s spurring and justifying hate crimes. Hate speech continues to fall under the umbrella of ‘free speech’, but as soon as you – ‘you’ being anyone other than a politician – express your views through physical protest or direct action, you pose a dangerous threat.
In the war between milkshakers and milkshakees, there needs to be a sense of balance. If politicians really think throwing a drink over someone is more violent than actually thrusting them out of a room by their neck, they need to get their priorities in order. The immense privilege of Field to act so abhorrent in a room full of apathetic bystanders is an apt shot of the right wing. Violence, particularly white male violence, is being sanctioned by the state – be it grabbing a climate change protester by the neck, the migrant women locked up in Yarl’s Wood, or the domestic survivors let down by the criminal justice system.
As we’re about to enter another era of the Tories with a leader not chosen by the public, the continued hypocrisy of Conservative politicians is only going to exasperate the break down of our starkly divided country. Don’t let Michael Gove do coke while unfairly stopping and searching black youths. Don’t let Mark Field assault a woman and get away with it while milkshake protesters get a criminal record. Don’t let a violent man stay in public office – it’s not fucking rocket science.