Friday Ephemera
Not Entirely Consonant

I’m Not Condoning Violence, But…

“Activist” Sam Allen has a way with words. Which is handy, given that she’s the spokesperson for the ‘No Tesco in Stokes Croft’ campaign. The campaigners have taken exception to the building of a Tesco supermarket, citing concern for local businesses, the environment and workers’ rights. Other concerns include deforestation and the selling of cheap food. Both of which are bad.

She says,

Our objections clearly outlined how opening this Tesco store would pose a threat to public safety. Our community is well known for having people who, if they are silenced, will act in a way that will ensure they will be heard.

Note the rhetorical sleight-of-hand. It’s quite bold. Being “silenced” is apparently indistinguishable from not being agreed with, and “being heard” now entails being obeyed. If the opening of a supermarket seems an unlikely cause of bomb-making, rioting and hospitalisation, those “public safety” issues can be seen quite vividly in the videos linked below: 

There are groups within our community that are prepared to break the law if their voices are squashed and not heard.”

Whose street?” “Our street!

Needless to say, Ms Allen’s view isn’t shared by all local residents, one of whom adds the following comment to the campaigners’ website:

Tesco was badly needed in Stokes Croft. There’s nothing even close in the area and most of the local silent majority welcomed its arrival. Those anarchists with their pseudo socialist ideology decided to ruin the area for everyone else trying to get on with their lives.

Another adds,

No-one’s going to force you to shop at Tesco; if the decision to open a store there is as unpopular as you say it is, it won’t be open for long.

Indeed. If the overwhelming majority of residents share Ms Allen’s piety, as she would have us believe, then there’s no obvious reason to set about destroying someone else’s property while expecting other locals to pay the subsequent bill for policing and repairs. If anything, the readiness to threaten and vandalise suggests a fear of being revealed as something much less edifying. However, such views aren’t exactly welcome on the campaigners’ website:

Please fuck off and die screaming of cancer you Zionist parasite scumbags.

Tesco was of course founded by John Edward Cohen.

Meanwhile, Ms Allen’s moral certitude continues. She asks,

Is Tesco in a position to ignore the rising costs of policing their new store when last night’s events involved the cost of three regional police forces and subsequent repair of damage?

Note the sly displacement of responsibility and the distinct whiff of menaces: Nice shop you’ve got there. Shame if anything were to happen to it. Rebuilding a burnt-out supermarket can be terribly costly.

I will never condone violence and smashing up Tesco is not my approach… 

Somehow, that claim isn’t entirely persuasive.

…but I am clear that the damage caused to Tesco’s property last night is relatively insignificant compared to the damage Tesco has been able to inflict on this community.

The “damage” caused by Tesco remains oddly undefined, but Ms Allen’s moral credentials are thankfully much clearer:

Bristol City council has a clear choice now: continue to let Tesco trade and risk last night becoming a regular occurrence or support the community it is supposed to represent and tell Tesco to leave.

Remember, though, Ms Allen “will never condone violence.” Not in so many words.



Guardian contributors and violence. Why, it’s almost becoming a theme.

Update, via the comments:

Commenter rjmadden notes the line, “Opening this Tesco store would pose a threat to public safety” and remarks, “The nerve of this statement is astounding.” Much of what Ms Allen says is indeed astounding and heavy with implication. Presenting thuggish tactics as lofty principles is nothing if not audacious. I’m inclined to use the word chutzpah, though some campaigners may conceivably take exception to a Jewish word, especially one so apt.

Setting aside the hint that gratuitous rioting could become “a regular occurrence” if demands aren’t met, the most charitable reading I can think of is that Ms Allen isn’t willing to condone violence against people – at least not in public. Violence against property, however – other people’s property – seems to be a matter of no particular concern. (It’s perhaps worth noting that the “squatting communities” involved in the rioting – and over which Laurie Penny coos - also tend to have a non-reciprocal view of property rights, which, rather conveniently, apply only to them.) Presumably, Ms Allen is quite happy to see Tesco stores being wrecked and set on fire by parasites, sociopaths and pretentious little thugs. And presumably she’s okay with police vehicles being trashed and fires being started to illuminate the protestors’ fearless radicalism. (Property on fire near where you live is a good thing, yes?)

Ms Allen tells us, “I was truly overwhelmed by the vast police presence… Feeling threatened in my own community is upsetting but the truth is people feel completely disempowered, and for some resorting to last night’s actions seems the only way people will listen.” Again, the word “listen” is a euphemism for obey. Strangely, Ms Allen shows little concern for other local residents who had no choice but to listen and who may have been “upset” by the fruits of her campaign. Unless of course they found comfort in the smell of burning, the sound of windows being smashed and the territorial chant of “Whose street? Our street!”

These things, presumably, are an acceptable cost - provided Ms Allen and her colleagues get what they want.