On Saturday 14th October Belfast saw more than a 2000 people march together through the city centre demanding free, safe and legal abortions. The reactionary politicians of the establishment and their lackeys in the media lost no time in describing the rally as crass, vulgar, disturbing the peace and a ‘sad affair’.
On Saturday 14th October more than a 2000 people marched together through Belfast city centre demanding free, safe and legal abortions.
Rally 4 Choice was a momentous event, an important part of the growing movement for choice in the North of Ireland, and an indication that the right-wing politics of denying rights is increasingly the target of people’s anger. It was a proud day for those of us affected by the restrictive laws and the criminalisation of abortion.
It gave us hope that we can fight for equality and reproductive justice.
The reactionary politicians of the establishment and their lackeys in the media lost no time to describe the rally as crass, vulgar, disturbing the peace and a ‘sad affair’. Nelson McCausland outdid himself in misrepresenting the spirit and atmosphere of the Rally.
Right-wing negativity has been focused on the ‘Fuck the DUP’ slogan and chants that accompanied the Rally at times. The slogan had already appeared at London Pride and Belfast Pride in 2017. It was visible at the Rally too and that caused a caustic reaction from those who recognised themselves in it.
A participant in Belfast Pride was questioned at home by the police over the banner she carried. At the Rally individuals were targeted by the PSNI and their placards were ripped off from them. The Rally organisers were intimidated by police officers over the slogan.
A carnival of vitriol took place in the media and the DUP lost the plot once again: according to them this is hate crime and is disrespectful to DUP voters.
Any sensible politician would avoid at any cost making shallow remarks about serious crimes, such as hate crime. The DUP posse however are far from sensible and did not miss an opportunity to make a mockery of themselves. Emma Little-Pengelly MP argued that the slogan is reverse sexism, using language associated with non-consensual sex?! Jim Wells MLA hurried to label the ‘Fuck The DUP’ slogan as hate crime.
Little-Pengelly and Wells are clearly ignorant about sexism and the definition of hate crime. Hate crime is a crime, usually involving violence against an individual or individuals, based on hate and prejudice against someone’s religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, disability or them being a transgender person.
Being a DUP MLA, or being a right-wing party, is not a protected category, and telling a known homophobic and bigoted party to piss off is not an act of hatred. Especially not when those hypocritical politicians are actually committing hate crimes, such as publicly calling LGBT+ people ‘an abomination’.
It is important to remember that people have an intrinsic right to free speech, expression and assembly. It is true that these rights can, and in specific circumstances should, be limited and are always balanced against the rights of everyone else. But no court will take Jim Wells’ allegation of hate crime seriously.
Freedom of speech includes the freedom to make offensive remarks and no person can claim the right not to be offended. Especially not DUP politicians who are known to have used their public platform to offend marginalised communities.
It’s much more important to note that although not codified in any specific piece of legislation, people have the moral and ethical right to rebel, to protest, to resist. This right is born from their oppression and to say to the DUP to fuck off is a political act of rejecting their bigoted politics and calling them out for their ignorance and hypocrisy.
Perhaps the DUP are bold in their actions because of the punitive rollback on human rights that their new Tory coalition partners continue to enforce. Marginalised communities have been targeted, prosecuted, pushed to the periphery of society by draconian policies, such as a criminal sentence for using abortion pills.
In this context, the ‘Fuck the DUP’ slogan is problematic as rebellion for the right-wing bigots because it raises the question of who is rebelling and how are they choosing to rebel?
Women, LGBT+ people, transgender people, disabled people, working class people, we have no right to rebel. It is not for us to tell politicians to feck off. It is for us to struggle in silence, apparently. Marginalised communities have been assigned the role of a burden or a victim and their protest and claim to rights and equality have consistently been undermined and delegitimised.
If people should try to protest, then they have to do it politely, quietly, with great sensitivity for the fragile political ego of hypocritical politicians.
So who is doing the actual offence here? The DUP, and all other complacent and two-faced parties of the establishment are the ones offending people and commuting acts of violence!
Where do we even begin with recalling all the times the DUP have acted with hatred against us all? The implicit support for sectarian bonfires, where photos of politicians from the opposition and national flags are burnt?
The implicit support for racist and violent flags being raised in shared spaces? The lack of response regarding Catholic families being chased out of their homes by Loyalist paramilitaries? The CIF funded patronage of paramilitary organisations and the very cosy relationship between the DUP and violent groups?
The refusal to denounce support from organisations with violent history? The high level corruption in the DUP ranks and the unbelievable waist of public money in the RHI scandal? The denial of support for LGBT+ people and the calling them an abomination? The denial of support for Irish speakers and the curtailing of their cultural rights? The blatant persecution of women and the zero support for abortion rights?
The ‘Fuck The DUP’ slogan is an act of protest. It’s voicing the anger of the community and it is calling out the hypocrisy. It is refusing to allow right-wing bigots hegemony over our lives. It is a cry for unity of all those neglected and actually harmed by the establishment parties, including the DUP.
You don’t have a right to be safeguarded from people’s anger. Not when you are offending and violating with your policies. Not when you are dividing people. Not when you are being hypocritical. As a party you have responsibilities. No surprise people will call you out and tell you to fuck off. The marginalised can and are resisting you!
The next step will be to say ‘fuck the DUP!’ at the ballot boxes.