Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The Ballyhea march format

For our first march, on March 6th 2011, we had 18 people in total, two A4-size sheets stating in not very legible form from a distance of more than about ten feet, BALLYHEA SAYS NO! TO BONDHOLDER BAILOUT; we were more like a motley crew just out for a short stroll than a protest march, but after four more outings, we in Ballyhea have gradually come up with the following format:
1. Just two banners, each about 8’x18”, one for the front of the march, one for the back; the front banner states that BALLYHEA SAYS NO! TO BONDHOLDER BAILOUT; the rear banner says the same, with the addition underneath of JUST A 10-min MARCH, PULL OVER AND JOIN US – this banner is on poles, is held high and faced rearwards so it can be read by several of the trailing cars.
2. No other banners or placards – it’s a single message and the banners front and rear say it all.
3. No chanting, no slogan, rhyming or otherwise.
4. It’s not a silent march (though this would be hugely powerful as a spectacle) but it is quiet, soft conversations going on up and down the march.
5. Lines of three or four, shoulder to shoulder, arms linked across the shoulders in a display of solidarity; if there are kids in the line, hands held.
6. March held at the same time, on the same day every week, from the same starting point along the same route – 11.45am on Sunday morning, from the church car-park to the speed-limit sign on the Cork side of the village and back to the car-park.
All the above evolved over the five weeks of marching so far, and all have a reason:
If we allow other banners/placards, soon we would have various political groupings taking over sections of the march – this is non-political, and in the same way that every man, woman and child in the country is suffering the effects of the extra taxes and extra cuts, we want every man, woman and child to feel they should be part of this protest; that’s employed, unemployed, employee, employer, right, left, centre, old, young and all ages in between, female, male, native, settler; all are welcome, and will be made to feel welcome.
If we have chants it may frighten off those of a quiet disposition, but there’s another reason; every protest march we’ve ever known has been noisy, raucous – as anyone who has ever been in a long-term relationship will surely know, silence too can be a very powerful weapon!
Linking arms across the shoulders is a powerful visual statement of our own bond, a more powerful bond than anything held by the bank creditors.
Same time, same channel – this is an effort at consistency.  If we can get every community marching at the same time on the same day, for that quarter of an hour every week it will bring the whole country together in common cause.  When has that ever happened?
We are totally against major disruption, against any kind of destruction, against confrontation with the Gardaí or anyone else.  As the momentum builds, however, we do plan on extending the campaign, to have mass marches in different areas on different Sundays – significant dates - to pull it all together occasionally.  We hope to kick this off with a central march in Ballyhea on Easter Sunday, the 95th anniversary of the 1916 Rising, with all the groups from the various areas coming to join us.  Ye bring the sandwiches, we’ll put on the kettle…
The above are guidelines only, with our reasons for same outlined, but we would stress here – we are only amateurs at this protest business, and everyone is free to do their own thing.  If it was made a standard protest, fine, but if you opt to do things differently, why not?  The most critical thing here is to get out and protest, however you choose to do it.
Regards, Diarmuid O'Flynn.

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