Academic and activist Aidan Ricketts says the actions of an individual does not reflect those who work hard to run decent campaigns.
The state member for Lismore says the city is getting a bad reputation, following reports the NSW chief medical officer was threatened at this week’s council meeting.
Parliament has this week heard that Dr Kerry Chant was harassed as she left a Lismore meeting about fluoride, with someone yelling ‘we know your face, I have friends in Syria, do you know of Sarin gas?’.
“It’s very important to point out that when the public goes to a protest, you’ve got everybody there, and sometimes there tends to be one in every crowd,” Mr Ricketts says.
Similar issues have been raised on the NSW north coast during the anti-CSG movement, of which Mr Ricketts has been a part of.
The Activists’ Handbook author says the actions of a small minority are often used opportunistically by political opponents of campaigns to detract from the debate.
“People put a lot of hard work into getting the facts straight, running decent campaigns whether it’s about CSG or fluoride, and then when one sort of foolish person does something over the top suddenly it totally distracts the issue and there’s a whole lot of discussion about that one thing.
“It’s stating the obvious to say it’s not good and it’s not acceptable but I think the view from inside the social movements is also one of real fatigue with it.”
Mr Ricketts says demonstrations are more successful when organisers appoint someone to calm down activists that are over-excitable or too impolite.
“In the case of some people, they are kind of these lone wolves and part of our training is, look, if you can’t calm them down get them to start attacking you so that they’re not attacking the visitor or whoever it is, that’s one of the strategies that we try and employ.
“A lot of work was put into that with the CSG movement, but when individual issues like fluoride pop up, well the movements aren’t necessarily that organised.”