Steven Sumpter’s account

March 27, 2011


A day in the life..of an armchair protestor

(republished with kind permission)

Steven Sumpter

Steven Sumpter

I am exhausted. I’m so tired that I can’t get out of bed right now. This is because I spent yesterday supporting the March For The Alternative and UK Uncut in any way I could from home.

My living room became a media hub. Along with my sister (@apricotmuffins on twitter) I watched multiple TV news sources, twitter, blogs, emails and news websites. To do the job we had four computers, six screens (including the 32″ TV) and phones, laptops etc. Both of us had Tweetdeck running with six columns of tweets and hashtag searches.

Late on Friday I was drafted in to help out with the virtual protest map from Disabled People Against Cuts. This is a map of many people that could not protest because of illness or disability. After a chat on Skype with the organiser I got to work adding emails of support to the map, eventually getting to sleep after 3am.

Saturday morning, I had promised to spend an hour with my wife over breakfast. I stuffed myself full of painkillers around 9am, and drank coffee. I sent my wife to take coffee to my sister (who lives next door) and wake her up ready for our day of virtual protesting.

A quick check of twitter showed that my automated scheduled tweets about the protest map were being retweeted at a good pace, drawing attention to it. I replied to a couple of tweets to clear up some confusion that my scheduled tweets had caused – people had assumed that I was awake!

Then at 10am I staggered out to the Lantern eating house for breakfast with my wife. To resist temptation, I handed my phone ever to her to keep it away from me! We enjoyed a nice breakfast and I managed to talk about things other than the protest.

Back in the house at 11, my sister and I set up for our protesting. She moved her computer into my house while I frantically tried to fit an extra hard disk into my PC to handle all the TV recording that I would be doing. Unfortunately my new gigantic heatsink was making this difficult! Finally at a little past 11 we were up and running. I sat at my desk with my PC, my old iMac on a table behind me. I set my PC to recording Sky News, and my iMac recording BBC news. My sister was watching on the main TV, switching between channels as they showed anything relevant.

Our biggest task of the day turned out to be keeping the DPAC map up to date. Logging in to the email account showed 54 messages waiting to go online, with more pouring in. I set my sister up with the email and map and showed her how to add people, and we attacked that task. I did the ones with pictures myself as it was a little more involved. Some where frustrating, since they didn’t include their location which made it difficult to add them to a map! Others had misunderstood and sent us long messages, promotions for events and other things which were not suitable for our map of solidarity.

All the while we were carrying out this task we were also watching twitter and the TV for updates about the march. Any time an interesting comment, update or insight came up on twitter I retweeted it to my followers. When the TV showed us anything interesting I reported that on twitter as well. As the day developed, I started to grab screenshots from the TV news and put them up on twitter. Although I was recording everything, the only clip that I managed to get online was a part of Ed Millibands speech. I’ve got hours of footage that I hope to publish a bit more of later.

This whole process was very intensive. I have to admit it was very difficult for anyone else to speak with me since I was completely immersed in what I was doing. Our atmosphere, much like the march, was one of excitement. Unfortunately this was all very draining for me. I eventually had to stop for a rest, in spite of the constant supply of caffeine and codeine. My first rest was 10 minutes on the sofa but still watching the TV. It wasn’t really a rest for me, but it was enough to keep me going a bit longer. My second rest was rather forced on me since I had completely run out of my ability to stand or walk, was scrambling up bits of what I was writing, and forgetting what I was doing. Lots of drugs, tea, and half an hour flat on my back in pain, and then I forced myself back to the computer for the final stint.

For the final part of the day we were retweeting as much of UK Uncut as we could, although there wasn’t a lot available. I put together a blog post with some text and a lot of screenshots from the TV news. I wanted to produce a report on UK Uncut but I just didn’t have enough information, and the photo sharing site that they were using seemd to have crashed under the load.

Finally, I was just too tired to continue. I stayed at my computer a little longer, watching twitter but mostly zoning out. I eventually went to my bed around 8pm, and spent a lot of the evening drifting in and out of consciousness.

This was my day of protest. I can only hope it made a difference somewhere.

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6 Responses to “Steven Sumpter’s account”


  1. Wow.

    “My living room became a media hub … I watched multiple TV news sources, twitter, blogs, emails and news websites. To do the job we had four computers, six screens (including the 32″ TV) and phones, laptops etc. Both of us had Tweetdeck running with six columns of tweets and hashtag searches.”

    I know you said you’d cover it from home – but that sounds bloody awesome. Above & beyond call of duty.

    Got your tweets constantly (with about 20 other feeds) while stationed at Parliament Square as Senior Steward, then transferred to run a Mobile Steward ‘Response’ Team. You tended to get the flashes to us first, and now I know why, and how.

    “This was my day of protest. I can only hope it made a difference somewhere.”

    Yes. It did. And, thanks.

  2. Sue Marsh Says:

    Haha, that was just about exactly my day too, but with less of the techy stuff. Every bit except I was sending out inspiring songs and rallying posts to keep up morale.


  3. Blimey! And I found it pretty intense going with just the PC and one telly, and I took a loooong break – ended up doing my blog at 3am. Fantastic work, mate!

  4. Mary Miller Says:

    Steven, you are miles ahead of many of us, who either live too far away (me, USA) or those who could try to figure out the virtual march…over my head and far away…I think many of us get down on ourselves because Marches are Messy, and the second rule is They never go off as planned. I know that in the short run we ask ourselves, “is this really worth every drop of sweat and blood I put into this?” and the answer is, “yes, at least for ourselves”…Change never comes swift, rarely without a cost, and it is easy to feel futile in the process. Know that your work will be rewarded by those who can view the Youtube’s you are sending out, if not by DPAC, who applaud your very efforts.

    I am sorry that folks feel that it was difficult. Rarely are marches organized well, mostly a mix of what we hope everyone can do, and miscommunications down the line. Know that what matters is that even if it was with incident, YOU will know what you have stood for, believe in, and hold to be true, even if the rest of the public does not.

    Sometimes digging out books from the Sixties about marches can help us gain prospective. It can also teach us more about collective gatherings and how to do them well. The importance of a unified voice, the importance of carrying passionately about a cause goes far…far enough to stop a war, can be far enough to give us homes, fuller bellies and a right in society. Don’t give up hope.


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