How far should protesters go?

During the recent wave of anti-government demonstrations in Poland, both the police and the protesters crossed some lines. This sparked a debate in the opposition media and raised the question, "How much can be gained through disobedience?"

Ada Petriczko
Ada Petriczko NewsMavens, Poland
How far should protesters go? - NewsMavens
Protest in Warsaw, YouTube

Why this story matters:

During the current period of social unrest in Poland, we are discussing the limits of protest. Can you engage in civil disobedience without becoming uncivil? Should you? The question is by no means new. Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King and many others have pondered it over the past 150 years.

Some commentators were disgruntled that the anti-government protests are getting violent.

They argue that insulting the police over the government’s actions is like screaming at the waiter because we didn’t like the chef's food.

Sure, it helps to release one’s anger but is it a sustainable strategy?

Yet, as the author of the recommended article points out, the street can be controlled only to a certain extent. By definition, it is not a neat place. People take to the street to voice their dissent and yes, it doesn’t always look pretty.

But it is not just about the art of protest. It’s about the ethics of it.

There have been reports suggesting that the police are at the limit of their capacities -- they are understaffed, work long hours and often resort to taking sick leave instead of working at the protests. Of course, the officers that allegedly assaulted a protester need to be investigated, but what about those that are just doing their job?

It is true that we need to take to the street. The strength of the protests has shown people across Europe that a big fraction of Poles disagree with the government’s policies. In the age of fake news and government propaganda, this engagement is invaluable.

That being said, the only realistic escape from the rule of PiS is winning the 2019 parliamentary election. And looking at the fractured and conflicted state of the opposition, this is going to be extremely difficult.

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