Five Things You Don’t Want to Know – Protests in History

Caitlin McLaren - 4B Chemical
Posted on: January 29, 2017

As readers will know, the thesis of this column is that all people, in all time, are ridiculous. Politics don’t enter into it – all sides have their absurd foibles. However, these are what are generally (and often pejoratively) referred to as interesting times. Since protest is the word of the day, protest it shall be.

Protests have a long and storied history, and are by nature transgressive. Humans being what they are, some protests have gotten weird.

Shooting the moon

Everybody loves a good mooning; it’s a very in-your-face way to show disrespect. It shows up in all cultures, whether you’re Braveheart, a Roman soldier, or Ozzy Osbourne. The Maori traditionally call mooning someone “whakapohane”, which is probably have the best word ever used for baring your buttcheeks. My personal favourite historical moon-er is Liam Warriner of Australia, who ran alongside Queen Elizabeth’s motorcade while clenching an Australian flag between his buttocks. Apparently, this was to protest economic inequality. That’ll show her.

However, Warriner is dwarfed by the several hundred Sarnia residents who gathered together in 2009 in order to perform a mass mooning of an American surveillance balloon hovering nearby. Now that’s a cause I can get behind.

Clowning Around

Let’s talk about something funny and totally not worrying in any way: anarchist clowns! What do clowns have to do with protesting, you ask? Well, clowns can protest too! Just ask the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, who operate in Britain and protest things like war and globalization. Apparently, they dress up as clowns to be less threatening, which shows that they are not well versed in popular culture. They are nonviolent, although sometimes they carry water pistols and feather dusters, and will very rarely steal anyone’s soul.

Meanwhile, another group of clowns appeared on the scene recently in Finland. They were accompanying the “Soldiers of Odin”, a white supremacist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant gang of thugs who fancy themselves to be badass Norse warriors. On one of their marches in January last year, a bunch of clowns showed up, only to be joined by counter-protesters dressed as actual clowns. The “Loldiers of Odin” marched along, singing and dancing, carrying a flag that said “Sieg Fail!” The Soldiers of Odin bravely left the scene, and the puzzled clowns declared that these guys must be better clowns than they were, since people laughed at them more.

Food Fights

One of the most traditional ways to show displeasure is by throwing rotten tomatoes or eggs at them. Not only do these make a mess, but they also smell bad and go “splatt!” in a very satisfying way. Or so I’ve heard.

Food can be used in protests in many ways, though. For example, when George W. Bush was elected President, he jokingly said that he hated broccoli and would not allow it in the White House or on Air Force One. Disgruntled broccoli farmers proceeded to dump several tonnes of broccoli outside the White House.

In 2012, dairy farmers protesting low milk prices decided to hose down the European Parliament with milk, along with police officers. If you don’t think that is too bad, imagine how the whole area would smell when the weather got warm.

However, the food protest that got the most out of hand ended up creating a popular festival. Supposedly, in the 1940s, angry citizens in Buñol, Spain began pelting their town councilmen with tomatoes during a festival. Everyone enjoyed this so much that they started doing it every year. Today, around 30,000 people take part in La Tomatina, an annual gigantic tomato fight. For bonus points, the festival is kicked off by people attempting to climb a greased pole and retrieve a ham, for reasons that remain mysterious to me. Maybe they are Freudian.

Hanging from Fishhook Piercings

No one likes animal cruelty. That’s like Level 1 of empathy. Unfortunately, some people fail even that; hence, the barbarous practice of shark finning. Since the fins are the most popular part of the shark to eat, some fishermen will just cut the shark’s fins off and toss the rest back in the water, since it is less valuable. Frequently this will be done without killing the poor shark, which will not be able to swim and will sink to the bottom. Since sharks need to swim continually to keep oxygenated water flowing over their gills, they will die of suffocation. Or get ironically eaten by fish.

An artist named Alice Newstead was so outraged by this practice that she decided to protest in a way that would definitely snag some attention. She had her back pierced with two huge fishhooks, and hung in a Parisian boutique window suspended by them. This lasted for about 15 minutes, which were probably more painful than any 15 minutes a lot of us have had.

Seriously people, shark finning is not cool.

Holes Too Big

Once again, Canada shows up in the crazy protests article! And once again, it involves nudity. I am a little worried.

In 2006, conditions on one length of highway in Saskatchewan were incredibly bad. Potholes were so big that you could literally float a canoe in them. Of course, citizens tried to get the province to rebuild it, but there wasn’t a lot of interest. How, then, to get the government’s attention?

This being Canada, a loud, aggressive campaign wouldn’t do. What else are government officials interested in? Nudity, of course!

A group of Saskatchewanians (Saskatchewanites? Saskatchewaners? Saskatchewanistanis?) decided that they would make a nude calendar. Not a regular nude calendar; a highway pothole nude calendar. Locals took pictures along the highway, sitting in potholes, sitting in canoes in potholes – you name it, all while in their birthday suits. Proceeds from the calendar were enough to pay for re-roofing a community centre, and it did get the attention of the government, who finally fixed the highway. The moral of the story: if something annoys you, get naked and try to embarrass the problem into going away.