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Be there or be so square on protests

I WILL whisper this and then run for cover:

I didn't think demolishing the Red Roads flats during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony was that bad an idea. Plenty of others did, however, and strongly.

But the push to see a dignified end to the flats took a wee step further this week with the actions of one Steven Browning, who would prefer to see at least one block of the flats kept whole, for posterity, and either refurbished or converted into something worth keeping.

Steven, who's 15, set up a change.org petition online, which has so far gathered just more than 750 signatures. Modest, but not nothing.

Predictably he's received a fair bit of flack for his, let's be honest, pie-in-the-sky idea. The flats are coming down and that, basically, is that.

But I have to admire Steven. He saw something that saddened him and he opted to try to change it. I hope, given his age, that instinct is fostered.

It's an instinct that could do with being fostered in more of us.

Protest is a lovely thing. To hold an opinion and protect it, outside a pub debate or a verbal tussle at breakfast, impresses me.

"We're all in it together," lies the Coalition. Well, we are during a protest. During a protest there is a sense of solidarity, of common purpose. Of hope, even. The marches of the 1980s didn't change Maggie Thatcher but they united people, just as happened with those against the Iraq War in 2002 and 2003.

Of course, protest would be lovelier if it were in person, rather than online. If people took the notion to put their shoes and coats on and stand together, outside, giving their whole person to a cause, using banners and shouts to remind those who are in charge, in there, that we are still out here.

Maybe the ease of internet petitions such as change.org will ultimately make protest weaker, but I hope not. Those who would normally shy away from activism are engaging instead, even in its smallest forms. Lending your signature, rather than your body, is a good start.

But to swoop back to the Red Road flats: they show exactly why the power of protest is so valuable.

While I didn't balk at the idea of a spectacular send off for the high-rises, I do think the notion of blowing down the Red Road flats during the opening ceremony shows a complete disconnect between the people who are in power and the people.

When I first heard the idea I thought it sounded terribly American, in that brash, loud and bold way they do things. Glaswegians are not that way towards their city. They are not likely to scan an eye over a plan that says: "Welcome to Glasgow - we'll blow things up for you!" and be pleased, especially not when one of those things is a building.

Glaswegians have a great tenderness towards their city, a great cleaving to nostalgia, particularly to her bricks and mortar. This was best demonstrated when Glasgow City Council put forward its plans to revamp George Square. It wasn't being particularly well-used but as soon as its visage was under threat, the goodfolk of Glasgow came out in protest.

At the time I agreed that the square should be left mainly as it was, but with some extra grass. I look back at George Square and I think I was wrong. The square did need a revamp. It could have been modern and pulsating. Instead, we opted to keep it just as was - but with a bit of grey asphalt. Still, it wasn't up to me - it was up to all of us.

Protest gives a notion of the collective consciousness. When our civic fathers don't have a firm handle on what we want we must use our capacity for protest to show them.

Even if we don't get what we want, we have to at least demonstrate what we think.

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Local government

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