Protest takes many forms. Ever since Suffragette Emily Davidson threw herself under a horse over a hundred years ago – and thereby gave the ‘votes for women’ campaign a significant boost – no method has been too outlandish for those who want to make a political point and draw attention to the issue that is closest to their heart.
The latest bizarre trend in political protest is what has come to be known as ‘milkshaking’. As British political parties campaigned for the European elections towards the end of last month, controversial pro-Brexit figures found themselves having milkshakes thrown at them.
Victims of such attacks included independent candidate Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (also known as Tommy Robinson), UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin (also known as Sargon of Akkad) and leader of the ultimately victorious Brexit Party, Nigel Farage MEP.
Farage was perhaps the most obviously offended by his milkshaking, which took place in Newcastle city centre on 20 May. In the immediate aftermath of the incident, he was caught on camera directing a blaze of fury at his security staff. “It’s a complete failure. You could have spotted that a mile off,” he could be heard saying. “How could this happen?”
He added to his comments the same day, saying: "I won't even acknowledge the low-grade behaviour that I was subjected to this morning. I won't dignify it. I will ignore it. Perhaps keep buying new clothes and carry on."
In a more measured response, Farage tweeted later that day that political polarisation over the Brexit debate was to blame for the attacks. “Sadly some remainers (sic) have become radicalised to the extent that normal campaigning is becoming impossible,” he said.
He continued: “For a civilised democracy to work you need the losers (sic) consent, politicians not accepting the referendum result have led us to this.”
It was reported at the time that the milkshake in question was banana and salted caramel flavoured, and had been bought from a local Five Guys restaurant for £5.25 (around $7). Northumbria police announced later that same day that a 32-year-old-man had been arrested on suspicion of common assault.
The identity of that man has since been revealed. His name is Paul Crowther, and he was reportedly flippant to nearby journalists immediately following the incident. “I was quite looking forward to [the milkshake],” he said. “But I think it went on a better purpose.”
In the latest update to the story, it was reported today that Crowther has been ordered to pay compensation to the Brexit Party leader. Crowther, of Holeyn Road, Throckley, pleaded guilty to common assault and criminal damage at North Tyneside Magistrates’ Court.
Avoiding jail, Crowther was given 150 hours of unpaid work assessment, and has been ordered to pay Farage £350 compensation. District Judge Bernard Begley laid into Crowther in the courtroom, declaring that he had committed “an act of crass stupidity”.
Solicitor Brian Hegarty, defending Crowther, argued that his client was only being penalised because of the political nature of the incident. He told the court that the attack was a “moment of madness”, and insisted that Crowther regretted his actions.
“The fact is,” said Hegarty, “it is said to be a politically motivated incident which has caused him to appear before this court and caused him to lose his good name." The court also heard of how Crowther had lost his job as a technical advisor with Sky as a result of the case.
Despite the regret he may be feeling now, Crowther sounded proud of what he had done in the days following the ‘milkshaking’. He told reporters that it was “a right of protest against people like [Nigel Farage]”.
He continued: "The bile and the racism he spouts out in this country is far more damaging than a bit of milkshake to his front."