How milkshakes became an anti-racist protest symbol
As Nigel Farage becomes third politician targeted with drink, The Week explores why it has become such a potent weapon
Nigel Farage has become the latest politician to be hit with a milkshake, in what has become an unlikely symbol of anti-Brexit protest.
The leader of the Brexit Party, which is currently leading in polls for Thursday’s European Parliamentary elections, was targetted a while on a walkabout in Newcastle yesterday.
The beverage-wielding assailant, Paul Crowther from Throckley, Newcastle said his decision to throw the Five Guys banana and salted caramel milkshake was “a right of protest against people like him”.
“The bile and the racism he spouts out in this country is far more damaging than a bit of milkshake to his front,” he told reporters as he was being handcuffed.
Although Crowther claims the decision to throw the drink was not premediated, milkshakes have also been thrown at EDL founder Tommy Robinson and UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin in recent days.
CNN reports that “a milkshake-dunking movement” in Britain began after video went viral earlier this month showing a protester spontaneously throwing a McDonald's milkshake over Robinson. Since then he has been targeted again, while Benjamin, Ukip’s controversial MEP candidate for the southwest, was hit with milkshakes three times in as many days.
On Friday, one of Robinson’s far-right supporters was filmed threatening a teenager holding a milkshake, warning: “I promise I’ll knock your teeth out”. Elsewhere, the Daily Mail reported on a “Robinson crony” confiscating a milkshake at a rally, in response to a social media campaign to “stop Tommy with milkshake”.
Furthermore, “a McDonald's branch in Edinburgh was asked by police not to sell milkshakes, due to a Brexit Party rally close by” reports Sky News.
While other countries have used yogurt, spaghetti, and even shoes to throw at politicians, eggs have traditionally been the tool of choice for British protesters. “In Britain, it will always be eggs”, The Guardian’s Chitra Ramaswamy wrote in 2015.
Farage, former prime minister David Cameron, and - perhaps most famously - former deputy prime minister John Prescott have all been the target of egg-throwing malcontents.
“But milkshakes have a few advantages over the humble egg,” says Quartz. “The sweet drink is much easier to carry around than a raw egg, and... the impact creates a larger visual effect”.
“Part of its appeal seems to be the innocence and fun associated with the drink, particularly the pink variety – a pleasing contrast with the darkness its targets represent for many,” writes Anoosh Chakelian in the New Statesman, but “there could be a deeper significance too” she adds.
The alt-right has been known to use milk as a symbol of white supremacy, because of its “whiteness”, and in order to mock ethnic groups with a “genetic predisposition” to lactose intolerance, says Dr Benjamin Franks, a senior lecturer in Social and Political Philosophy at the University of Glasgow who specialises in direct action.
“The milkshake is turning that symbol against them,” he told the New Statesman. “It is an example of political ju-jitsu. It also makes them look foolish, undermining their self-image of power and control. The bathos of the great leader brought low by a drink associated with children is highly effective.”