Hundreds of people gathered yesterday evening in front of the Police Headquarters called there by the civil society network to demand justice for Daphne Caruana Galizia, her family and the country.
After the two large demonstrations in Valletta and Sliema the previous Sundays this was a more focused affair. Malta has very little tradition of long-term protesting campaigns, certainly none outside those organised by political parties and almost all of those in electoral campaigns twice a decade. Malta has almost no culture of sit-ins whatsoever.
Continues after photos.
You could see that the great bulk of the people present where older than 35. A disproportionate number were older than 55. We lamented a younger generation more keen on things than thoughts. How the threats to their freedom of expression and equality before the law affected them more than anyone in that crowd and yet they stayed away busy with their apolitical lives.
You could see that the great bulk of the people present voted PN in the last election. We lamented how fear, indifference, moral ambivalence, and sheer hostility to the pursuit of truth keep Labour supporters away. That almost none of them could distinguish between the Labour Party and the monopoly on power its leaders have secured.
You could see that the great bulk of the people present were not the biggest fans of the new leadership of the PN. We lamented how some of us felt exiled from the party we called our own in spite of years of commitment and service merely for holding true to what we firmly believe are the authentic values of the PN: loyalty to truth and clarity before loyalty to leader and opacity.
We all lamented that at some point the hard-working organisers of the civil society network will need to go back to their jobs and to their children and to their duties of everyday life. Everyone understood Michael Briguglio’s appeal to support and join the #occupyjustice women on Wednesday morning when they go see the prime minister who gave them an appointment to see him during working hours after spending days and nights camped at his door waiting for it.
Protesters have to negotiate again time with their bosses, their clients and their children, to serve their country as upstanding citizens fighting for everyone’s rights before their own. They have to give up time again so the people who go to work, to tennis, and to their daily run can have their equal rights as citizens protected and defended.
Protesters have to face the thanklessness and abuse of ironic accusations that they are protesting because they have “an agenda”, or because they are “in it for themselves”.
The few politicians who do show up to support the protesters are fished out and photographed, identified as criminals in a line up. Where the real scandal should be to identify the politicians that stay away unwilling to stand up and fight for equality for everyone before the law and freedom of speech, the ones that are there are attacked. And the protesters they support are besmirched by the imaginary guilt by association for sharing a cause with some politicians.
It is all very disheartening.
Until you remember that none of us were ever as lonely as Daphne Caruana Galizia was when she fought as an army of one until she fell.
I’m reminded of the St Crispin’s speech. It’s better to be few who share a conviction which is unshakeable even if we remain alone, naked in the dark, facing the combined forces of corruption and the complicity of suppression, indifference, anger and hostility.
It’s better not to share our protest with hundreds who show up as automata because their party tells them to without knowing what they are really fighting for.
It’s better not to have to compromise and dilute the principled arguments we want to put forward with the confusion of sectarianism, vested interests and an obligation to veil embarrassing inconsistencies.
It’s better if we hold convictions that we can all share with our unwilling neighbours without the need of cues on a hymn sheet written for us in a smoke-filled room.
It does not matter if we’re few. Our claims and demands for a just society and a clean administration of the country we love are not more or less right if more or less people support it. And the measure of the people out in the street is unfair anyway given how many tell us they have to remain silent, frozen by the chilling effect of the threat of discrimination and retribution on employees and businesses.
It does not matter if we’re few. We’re a happy few.
The Photos with this post are by Sarah Carabott of The Times and Michael Camilleri of The Malta Independent.