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Britain's Student Protests: A Starfish Against a Spider

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, December 2 2010

Is this what a networked protest looks like? The police in London have taken to "kettling" student demonstrators in cul-de-sacs, where they simply hold them from moving in any direction without arresting anyone, and hope to grind them down by attrition. Read this description from Britain's Prospect Magazine of how things played out Tuesday. The distributed network is beating the centralized one; the starfish is beating the spider.

But this time it would be different. Again 4,000 protestors marched down Whitehall. Again the police blocked their way. And then something different. The protestors turned. Like swallows catching the air current, in unison they wheeled. Four thousand people reversed back up to Trafalgar and then under Admiralty Arch and straight through St James Park. The police desperately tried to reform their neat, strong, unified lines. But they were just too slow. The students roamed freely, testing every entrance into Parliament Square, reforming and flowing outwards again at every blockade. Wherever they gallivanted they closed the streets and stopped the traffic. They would be heard. There were no leaders, no one pointed a way forward. They just carried on moving.