I read attempts to justify violence at Speakers’ Corner. I condemn it.
First, the victim was videoing trans protesters. Maria MacLachlan has claimed she got out her camera to video Julia Long, but this twitter thread shows her videoing protesters, even approaching them to intimidate them. This is a threat. We can be outed. The threat could be exaggerated: the opposition are not the police, with access to facial recognition software, but some coincidence might lead to a person being identified. A video shot in that way could be edited to pretend non-violent trans protesters are in some way threatening, but what they did was worse.
The violence starts with an attempt to snatch the camera. Filming is provocation but not itself violence.
Second, as the camera was attached by a strap to MacLachlan’s wrist, there was a scuffle. MacLachlan has a woman in a head lock. Defenders say the punch was an attempt to defend that woman. But, the violence started with the attempt to snatch the camera. So it’s the headlock that is self-defence.
Third, the punch was thrown by a provocateur, with TERF sympathies. This is highly unlikely, difficult to organise, and will not be believed. Someone wanted not to condemn before she was convinced to her own satisfaction that the punch was definitely thrown by a trans woman. Ordinary people, without much understanding of the issues or sympathy for either side, will see that as condoning the violence.
The provocation mitigates, but does not justify, the violence against MacLachlan.
There is a practical reason for condemning the violence. It makes us look bad. There are TERFs saying that this shows that trans women are men, even “men’s rights activists”, violent against women as all men are violent, and all trans women are men who are that violent. I hope reasonable people will not judge me by that punch. Trans woman condemns violence is not news, but just possibly trans woman justifies violence is.
Then it is ineffective. Even systematic State violence does not prevent committed individuals who feel they are right from resisting. Our violence can only encourage our opponents.
Violence makes reconciliation even more unlikely, brutalises aggressor and victim, turns disagreement into conflict, makes us physically more unsafe.
I understand in theory that non-violence is possible: an ideal, where from a position of self-knowledge, understanding and acceptance of the whole situation, and developed Love for the world in all its messy complexity, one might stand up for Truth without violence. And knowing that ideal, it might be worth attempting it, even while knowing I will fall short. I am afraid this is in theory.
There was to be a talk by two anti-trans speakers. Perhaps there was no point in demonstrating against that. There is a small group of people who are passionately TERF, and they are not convincing people generally. Showing up in a non-violent way might show our humanity. We are more difficult to hate, as individuals. The TERFs are not persuadable, though, seeing themselves as victims and us as persecutors. Finding a way to talk to them just might work, one person at a time, but even shouting, leave alone a punch, just convinces them that they are right.