Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 13, 2011

My Call For Silent Protests

Earlier this year I called for an afternoon of "silent protests" against the last election results for the German government. There was a pretty good response. Hundreds of people met me on the sidewalks of Spitalerstrasse, a main shopping street here, and, as requested, people kept pretty silent. No one shouted any slogans.

Silent protests in Hamburg

There were some haunting moments when police showed up from their nearby post. We successfully ignored them and they only picked up some punks who were just caught shoplifting. As you can tell from the picture, my call for "silent protests" was a great success.

I was therefore not astonished to see the Iranian opposition copying my concept:

Tehran - The Iranian opposition on Sunday called for silent protests against the government on the second anniversary of the disputed presidential election, opposition websites reported.

Those "silent protests" called for yesterday seem indeed to have happened. But the news accounts on them vary a quite a bit. I wonder why that might be so.

Let's start with the LA Times:

Two years to the day after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a highly disputed election victory amid allegations of fraud, sparking a months-long uprising, small gatherings of possible protesters were easily dispersed in central Tehran on Sunday.

A witness spotted a police van with three young men detained inside on Vali Asr Street. But there were no other signs of protest or slogans chanted.

Hmm ... "possible protesters" - why only "possible"?

The AFP account:

Security forces were deployed on part of Tehran's longest avenue, Vali Asr street, which bisects the capital from north to south, and in nearby areas, [witnesses] said.

However, small groups of people were seen on the avenue as well as in Vanak Square, in apparent response to calls for a demonstration by the opposition.

Okay, so there were "small groups of people" seen along Tehran's biggest street (10.7 miles long). Good.

The Associated Press:

Iranian police swinging clubs chased protesters and made arrests yesterday to disperse hundreds of people who gathered in the capital to mark the second anniversary of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection, the opposition said.

The opposition said something. A big thanks to AP for letting us know what the opposition said. While you are at it AP, what did happen in Tehran?

The U.S. sponsored RFE/RL site has this:

A demonstrator told RFE/RL's Radio Farda that many opposition supporters marched under the eyes of the security forces.

"We started walking on Vali Asr Street. As [expected], special forces were deployed on both sides of the street like a human wall," the man said. "But people ignored them and continued walking on the sidewalks without chanting."

The Wall Street Journal report hits the ball out of the park:

BEIRUTTens of thousands of Iranians marked the second anniversary of the 2009 turbulent presidential elections that sparked an uprising with a nationwide silent march against the government on Sunday.

In Tehran about 15,000 people congregated along the capital's famous Vali Asr Avenue, historically the scene of opposition protests, on late Sunday afternoon, quietly marching up and down the sidewalk, witnesses said. Similar protests were planned in other cities.

So we have "small gatherings of possible(!) protesters", "small groups of people", "hundreds of people", "tens of thousands" all on the sidewalks of a 10.7 miles long busy big street, "congregating" and of course, not chanting.

Could it be that there were no protests at all? That while some exile Iranians called for "silent protests" the local western media stingers only reported seeing people in a busy street. Could the Wall Street Journal reporting from Tehran Beirut be a bit off in its interpretation? Maybe.

Whatever. I am convinced that the concept of "silent protests" is a good one. Try it yourself. The next time before you go downtown, call for a "silent protest" in your city. You should of course have a decent cause fitting the 140 character Twitter limit. Then, when downtown, you will be astonished how many people will join your cause, walking with you on the sidewalks without chanting. Maybe you will even get the Wall Street Journal to report on it - from Beirut.

Posted by b on June 13, 2011 at 16:03 UTC | Permalink


Yesterday upon the stair
I met a man who wasn't there.
He wasn't there again today -
I think he's from the CIA.

haha... I'm not sure that's not a laugh of mania or despair... both?

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 13 2011 16:25 utc | 1

Gotta love it.
I called on the sun to rise, and lo-and-behold, it did!

Posted by: Cyrus | Jun 13 2011 17:30 utc | 2

b, your wit is superbly dry, most people don't catch it, so only a few get to treasure it. I like it.

Posted by: Morocco Bama | Jun 13 2011 18:24 utc | 3

Yet more dribble from that American middle class revolutionary who goes under the guise of AngryArab

Yesterday, the repressive government of the Ayatullah repressed a silent protest. What if they had spoken?

Like his Syrian reliable source. I think he is a con, don't you?

Posted by: hans | Jun 13 2011 21:28 utc | 4

I have been calling for silent protests here in the USA for over 40 years. So far not a one of us has been arrested, but we don't get much MSM news coverage.

Posted by: joseph | Jun 13 2011 22:15 utc | 5

Since the German authorities are obviously upsetting your silent protestors by not listening to their silent protests I think it is time that we demand a no-fly-zone over Hamburg to protect the silent protestors right to protest peacefully.

Posted by: blowback | Jun 13 2011 22:17 utc | 6


Posted by: Uncle $cam | Jun 14 2011 3:03 utc | 7

Now here's a silent protest I can applaud. Bigtime. Gutsy young woman. Important message.

Posted by: DeAnander | Jun 14 2011 6:47 utc | 8

PS b, there is continuing unravelling at Fukushima. can we have another thread sometime in the next couple of weeks? latest measurements suggest that the folks who kept saying, "Come on, this is no Chernobyl you guys" were right: it's not Chernobyl, it's worse than that (60 mio curies released to date vs 50 in Ukraine).

I'm getting more worried about the situation with each passing week, even as it fades further into the background in western media. notice the recent overwhelming anti-nuke referendum in Italy?

Posted by: DeAnander | Jun 14 2011 6:49 utc | 9

@DA - Italians already voted against nuclear energy in 1987, so it's no surprise; yesterday I posted a quick comment on the vote on the open thread

the vote for keeping the water service public was the real news of these referendum: a popular vote against neoliberism, for the first time, I think

Posted by: claudio | Jun 14 2011 12:42 utc | 10

Photo looks nice and quiet. ;)

Posted by: Noirette | Jun 14 2011 14:42 utc | 11

What we saw in MSM about the ‘Arab Spring revolutions’, Tunisia and Egypt, though now some have turned into rumbling and perhaps soon very bloody civil wars with or without outside interference (Lybia, Syria) - was very mild, very much along the line of peaceful demonstrations and demands addressed to authorities.

Not silent, but non-violent, organized, clean. Fitting the popular image of Ghandi. Cling-wrapped on the ground. So sweet.

In Tahir square, everyone behaved well (except some bozos on camels with guns and swords, they were starving and paid..), and demanded Mubarak be deposed. That worked. Then what?

The protestors were exemplary in their adherence to the ‘peaceful protest’ line. They adopted it, in part, because it is the ‘thing to do’, garners sympathy, and guarantees space in the World MSM. (Their actions resembled those of color revolutions.)

These kinds of protests signal disagreement and can make one or two simple demands, not more. It is the old story - write a protest letter to the KING, be received, find some relief and understanding, all well and good. Except it is run collectively, thousands, hundreds of thousands, or millions, have the same or similar demand. Yet it remains a demand, which can be accepted or not, partly or only symbolically; rapidly or slowly; must be discussed, etc.

The desire or ostensive demand does come with a request with hidden force behind it, nor does it suggest, much less impose any fundamental change. It keeps the two parties firmly in their positions - Rulers and Petitioners. It is just a Grand Petition. With a lot of media splash! Girls on the tee-vee!

If the protestors continue to march, camp, etc. they are shot or arrested and in any case will become tired, bored, hungry, weak...time to get back to real life...

Following the laid-down rules for ‘peaceful’ protest, what is admitted, allowed, admired even, the protestors sign their own warrant for insignificance, except for some of them, who make money and rise...

The script is framed by the West - this you can do if you are a blooger (typo), a poor worker, this other action is not acceptable.

Posted by: Noirette | Jun 14 2011 16:24 utc | 12

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