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Activism and... Power

I think that the thing that jumps out from my memory of all of my activism was spending several hours on a sit-down blockade staring down the barrel of a water cannon. Potentially quite a disempowering situation, as the police have a lot of equipment which they are fairly free to use at their own discretion. When all you have is your strength of will, and your physical presence, to challenge that – you feel like the weaker party in that game.

But to come together with a lot of people, and to hold that space, and to stare out that water cannon. And for the police to make the judgement in the end that it was not in their interests to use that water cannon on us. It was quite an empowering experience.

Brighton man


Power? I’ve had a very mixed experience of power because I don’t think we think about it enough. So we talk about ‘sharing power’ and ‘power-with instead of power-over’, but in fact I’ve found people have tried to have power-over, and it’s not a nice experience when people use power against you or to achieve their own ends.

On the other hand, when people do really work together, actually, that’s the bit that keeps you going.

Leeds woman


Gosh, that’s a big one. Powerlessness undermines people actively participating in society, let alone campaigning for change. A particular thing is isolation. I was talking to a friend tonight about how there are people living on the same road who could help each other so much and they don’t know each other exist.

Also, it’s difficult to – I’m not sure you could quite call it power – it’s difficult to measure ‘success’; if you’re making a difference.

Bristol man

Topics: Activism