Violence and Intimidation

Poll Tax RiotsThis may be an unfortunate consequence of confrontation between police or other authorities and protestors, as in the 1990 poll tax riots where a peaceful march was marred by escalating violence by some of the protestors. Demonstrations can sometimes turn violent because protestors feel threatened by police presence or actions, and in other cases protestors pick fights with police, although there are always conflicting accounts of who instigated things. Tactics of intimidation used by activists could include threatening phone calls and letters, threats of kidnap, verbal abuse and causing psychological harm through grave robbery such as carried out by animal rights activists in 2004. Groups such as the Radical Animal Rights Movement and Earth Liberation Front have been accused of ‘eco-terrorism’; however their actions seem to be primarily aimed at property rather than people. Once violence is turned towards civilian lives in the pursuit of political goals, it falls within the general definition for terrorism. This extreme tactic is used to seek to compel governments to change policy that is considered harmful enough to warrant such extreme action. Terrorism usually occurs in response to large-scale political conflict, and well-known examples include actions of the IRA and Al-Qaeda, both organisations which use bombing as a main tactic. The American revolutionary organisation the Weathermen targeted US government buildings in protest at the Vietnam War among other issues, and like the Black Panthers, believed that militancy was needed to spark off an imminent revolution. Although their aim was to grab media attention to highlight perceived injustices, the terrorist acts themselves overshadowed any mention of the issues at hand in media reporting.

CLOSE