The milkshake protest dividing Britain

Making a splash: #Milkshake was the top UK trend on Twitter after the incident. © Getty

Yesterday, a man was charged with assault after hurling a banana and salted caramel milkshake at Nigel Farage of the Brexit Party. Is this an acceptable form of political protest?

The humble milkshake. A delicious treat, and now an unlikely symbol of political resistance.

“Milkshaking” is the new protest sweeping Britain, leaving a trail of right-wing figures dripping with dairy.

On Monday, Nigel Farage paced the streets of Newcastle, drumming up support for his new Brexit Party ahead of tomorrow’s European elections. A man lunged at him, splashing a banana and salted caramel shake over his pinstripe suit. As Farage was whisked away, onlookers laughed.

But the right-wing populist was not amused.

“Sadly some Remainers have become radicalised to the extent that normal campaigning is becoming impossible,” he tweeted.

Yesterday, Paul Crowther, 32, was charged with common assault. Now facing a six-month prison sentence, Crowther says he doesn’t regret his actions, although he was “quite looking forward” to drinking the £5.25 shake.

The trend took off earlier this month, when a viral video showed 23-year-old Danyaal Mahmud pouring a strawberry milkshake over the head of far-right agitator Tommy Robinson. Mahmud was quickly hailed as an “everyday hero” in The Evening Standard.

It was the second time in as many days that Robinson had been milkshaked. UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin, who is being investigated by police for hateful comments, has been doused four times.

Milkshaking is so widespread that McDonald’s branches in Edinburgh stopped selling milkshakes near a Brexit rally after pressure from police. Burger King, however, was unperturbed.

“Dear people of Scotland. We’re selling milkshakes all weekend. Have fun,” the chain tweeted.

Meanwhile, slogans like “The Revolution will be Pasteurised!” and “Lactose Against Intolerance!” have spread across the internet.

But for others, milkshaking is a threatening act and a symptom of the UK’s increasingly abusive public discourse. In The Telegraph, Charlotte Gill wrote that it “is disturbing to see” people throw any projectiles at politicians, especially “at a time when so many MPs receive death threats”.

Even some of Farage’s opponents disapprove.

“It will probably only help him with his own supporters, who will feel he’s being victimised,” said Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable.

An udder disgrace?

Is milkshaking an acceptable form of political protest? Whether it’s with eggs or custard pies, the UK has a long tradition of ridiculing politicians who don’t deserve to be taken seriously. Is throwing a milkshake really more violent that inciting hatred against minorities?

But under the law, it is an assault. In a time of toxic politics, is milkshaking escalating conflict over respectful debate? Is it hypocritical to condemn the intimidation of Remainer MPs whilst cheering assaults on your political opponents?

You Decide

  1. Is throwing a milkshake an acceptable way to protest?
  2. Should you always respect people you disagree with?

Activities

  1. Write you own definition of the term “political violence”. Would it include milkshaking?
  2. Write down three different types of protest, with examples of when and where they were used. To help you, research different protest movements in history. For example, anti-apartheid activists or the suffragettes.

Some People Say...

“Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy — it is absolutely essential to it.”

Howard Zinn, US historian

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
On Monday in Newcastle, whilst campaigning for the European Parliament elections (held tomorrow), Nigel Farage, leader of the Brexit Party, was covered in milkshake by a member of the public. According to a YouGov poll, 72% of the public do not think that milkshaking is an acceptable form of protest; 18% think it is, and 10% don’t know.
What do we not know?
How long the milkshake protests will go on. A variety of foods from eggs to custard pies have been used over the years. In 2001, Labour politician John Prescott famously punched a man who egged him. More recently, a video went viral of a teenager egging Australian senator Fraser Anning, who had blamed Muslim immigration for the Christchurch mosque attack.

Word Watch

Nigel Farage
Yesterday, the European Parliament’s advisory committee announced it will investigate whether Farage broke fundraising rules by accepting £450,000 from Leave campaigner Arron Banks.
Brexit Party
Farage said he formed the party in response to the Conservative Party’s failure to deliver Brexit. Polls suggest that the Brexit Party will win most votes in Thursday’s European Parliament election, while Labour and the Conservatives are likely to see huge losses.
European elections
The European Parliament is comprised of 751 MEPs who represent 28 member states of the EU. The parliament helps to decide EU law.
Populist
Someone who appeals to the common people and criticises elites.
Radicalised
When someone adopts extreme views, often used in relation to terrorism.
Comments
He made comments about raping Labour MP Jess Philips.
Tweeted
Burger King was accused of inciting violence.
Pasteurised
The process of sterilising milk.
MPs
Anna Soubry has been confronted by aggressive Brexit supporters outside Parliament.

Subjects

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