Petitions

Got any stories? Ever started one? Had a successful one?
I’m contemplating starting a petition for a local road issue; seems a bit daunting but would be worth it if I could get some traction.
So, yeah, petitions…

Have you signed that BIG Revoke Article 50 petition?

  • Yes
  • No

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When I briefly lived in Broadstairs, my landlady asked me to sign a petition that her friend was doing to stop a nude beach being designated in the 'stairs. Her reasoning was “because Gary Glitter lives somewhere around here now” and not the fact that the existing nude beach at Sandwich was quite nearby.

I politely declined, claiming that as I was not local I didn’t feel that I was able to comment on local issues. As it was proper Farage country, that excuse worked.

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Don’t think they’re very effective, particularly e-petitions.

Reckon letter-writing campaigns, and responses to local consultations (when they happen) are much better.

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Not petitions but I’ve run lots of campaigns and some protest events.

The council have blacklisted me as a result, well the council leader has, sure he’s got better things to be doing than to make it so I can’t ever get funding for community projects but clearly not.

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Generally not a fan of petitions.

They’re so easy to set up and distribute, and they make people signing them feel that they’re making a meaningful impact on an issue. But signing is literally the very least someone can do and the final petitions are easily dismissed or ignored. Taking the time to write an actual letter always goes much further.

Can’t think of many recent successful petitions beyond the jokey marketing ones to get Wispas back in shops.

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Depends what petitions are used for, how they are worded and where they are directed

Where I work we obviously make use of petitions (as well as letter writing and advocacy/lobbying) and having spoken directly to Prisoners of Conscience who have been freed due to our campaigns there are a whole host of positives that come from petition action, even if they are not immediately successful

case in point; we campaigned for the release of a man name Fikru Maru - a Swedish-Ethiopian cardiac specialist who was imprisoned and tortured in Ethiopia, accused of smuggling, attempting to bribe officials and, while imprisoned, of starting a riot*

It took 5 years and three rounds of campaigns & petitions before he was finally freed. However, he described to us the fact that after nearly 2 years imprisoned and tortured and newly diagnosed with bowel cancer he was ready to give up. He had decided to try and poison himself but this meant having to save up what little medicine he was getting in order to have enough for an overdose. While planning this he also contemplated various other ideas like trying to attack the prison guards in order to get himself shot but he figured he would just end up getting more beaten and tortured.

Then suddenly, days before his planned suicide, the prison & Fikru received the first petition we had collected - 38,000 names from Sweden along with cards messages of support & he told us that this saved his life. He suddenly realised that all these people were fighting for him and that it was about time he started to fight for himself.

That petition, even though it didn’t succeed in freeing him, literally turned his life around. He resolved to make the best of his situation and began using his medical skills to treat other prisoners for their torture wounds, eventually establishing a kind of makeshift hospital in the prison & even overseeing a nearby prison hospital in an unofficial capacity.

Even though his resolve was helping many others he was still being tortured plus now the Prison Director saw him as a threat and he was mistreated further as a result.

A second petition came in about 18 months after the first with around 50,000 names. This time the relevant authorities, the courts & regional Govt, agreed to his release and it was arranged that he would be freed. During this time he was undergoing treatment for his cancer at a prison hospital about 40km from where he was being held and the situation in the prison was extremely volatile. There was a riot in the prison during which a dozen prison officers were killed but they opened fire on the inmates, killing in excess of 50 prisoners. This was while Fikru was in the hospital but the Prison director used the riot as an excuse to refuse to release Fikru - absurdly claiming that he had been the mastermind behind it (rather than admitting a loss of control of his facility). The 2nd petition did however mean that the local courts & regional government was observing Fikru’s situation, which meant that the torture stopped.

A year later and a 3rd petition eventually secured his release after 5 years in captivity

So, do petitions make a difference? They definitely can and they often do and even if their goals are not immediately successful there are many positive spin-off effects to making your voice heard and shining a light on things

*he was tranferring hospital equipment from Sweden to a heart clinic in Addis Abeba, was told he didn’t have the necessary papers (even though he had), so instead of arguing he left the equipment at the airport and resigned himself to taking it home on his return journey. When he went to pick up the equipment on leaving the country he was stopped and accused of trying to smuggle equipment out of the country. He says it seemed clear to him that at both entry and exit the soldiers were angling for a bribe and as he wasn’t forthcoming on either occasion they arrested and imprisoned him for ‘smuggling & bribery’

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our actual figures show that 1 in 3 campaigns (that petitions are a large part of) result in positive outcomes and helped release around 650 people in 2017 - nearly 2 a day