The right to protest must be protected at all costs | Letters

Readers respond to Polly Toynbee’s article about the power of political activism, and the threat of the policing bill to our liberty

Yes, protest can feel futile, but what other vehicles do we have to articulate our frustrations at those who lead us (I’ve been protesting all my life. It can feel futile, yet doing nothing is much worse, 21 January)? It takes effort to protest so it must be important to us.

The targets of protest tend to be issues that are big, with long-term implications, and where the public know that short-term political decision-making will be wrong. Protests also keep issues in the media – which is vital.

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Attempting to ban protest is usually the mark of a repressive state. That’s not us, is it? | Will Hutton

Despite the defeats in the Lords, Priti Patel won’t give up on her police and crime bill

Governing complex economies and societies by consent is hard. Much easier to impose decisions and restrict any capacity by the governed to complain, challenge and protest. The Chinese Communist party’s brutal repression in Hong Kong is driven by that impulse, as is the Singapore government’s recent intensification of its crackdown against dissent. The US Republican party’s approach may be less directly repressive but serves the same end – to gerrymander the voting system to ensure a government that brooks no opposition.

Democracy is in retreat worldwide. Democracies seem weak, unable to get things done, and are captured by big money. A basic precondition for democracy – respect for different opinions – is vanishing in fractious times; adversaries are seen not as part of the same polity but rather abhorrent “others” to be quashed. Next to such “strong men” as Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping, democratic leaders can seem insipid.

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