Method of protest does little toward true cause

A protestor threw his shoe at China’s prime minister Monday, sparking global interest in the increasingly popular form of protesting.

Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who is in the U.K. to meet with officials over trade agreements, was at Cambridge University to give a speech on the global economy when the shoe was thrown.

‘How can this university prostitute itself with this dictator here, how can you listen … to him unchallenged,’ the protestor said, according to Associated Press writer Martin Benedyk.

During his U.K. visit, Wen has been met by much criticism concerning alleged human rights abuses and the Chinese control of Tibet.

Shoe-throwing as protest first received global media attention in December when Iraqi journalist Muntader al-Zaidi threw his shoes at former President George W. Bush during a press conference given in Baghdad with Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki. Al-Zaidi, who used his time in the international spotlight to draw attention to the deaths of Iraqi civilians by American soldiers, remains in prison while awaiting trial, according to AP.

While the Cambridge University protestor has attempted to draw more media coverage to his beliefs with a copycat performance, more attention has been paid to the method of protest than the content. And in the meantime, the message was lost on his global audience.

Throwing a shoe at a world power may be a symbolic catharsis for the protestor in question, but it can be interpreted as absurd by media and onlookers. Let’s hope a more appropriate and less archaic gesture can be employed by protestors of the 21st century.

Leave a Comment