This entry was posted on
Wednesday, December 14th, 2005 at
11:26 am and is filed
under The War on Stupid.
Trust me; you’ll want to use this information after reading Michael Foster’s letter to the Independent on Monday:
(OOPS! I initially got the wrong Michael Foster. These details have now been updated. Thanks to poons for the heads-up.)
Here it is the full text of that letter. If you haven’t seen/read it yet, I suggest that you put your coffee to one side for a moment…
New law protects the right to protest
Sir: I am really sorry that my constituent Maya Evans was convicted under Section 122 of the new Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (report, 8 December).
On the face of it, it looked to be an overreaction on the part of the prosecutors but be that as it may, it would be wrong to say that the legislation is unnecessary. Its purpose is not to deny protest but to ensure that such protest is possible.
Historically all sorts of protests have taken place around Parliament, but with the current terrorist threat it would be easy to mask a terrorist atrocity under the guise of a legitimate demonstration. The easy solution would have been to simply ban such protest – as the media indeed claim is the purpose of the Act – but that was not the Government’s intention.
Section 122 of the Act makes protests within 1km of Parliament illegal unless authorised by the police. However, the police are required to give that authorisation unless public safety or national security is compromised. Thus protests such as that of Maya Evans can be accommodated, provided the police are informed in advance. Indeed it should be noted that Miss Evans’s fellow demonstrator Mr Rai did give such notice and was not prosecuted.
Ms Evans’s prosecution is unfortunate and appears to have been somewhat zealous, but to suggest it is an attack on free speech is bizarre. Such a right must be, and indeed is, protected by this legislation.
MICHAEL FOSTER MP
HASTINGS AND RYE
Jesus H. Christ on crutches…. I know that dancing to Blair’s tune requires a fair degree of ingenuity and creativity, but this step is a doozy!
Derek Cole says it best in his follow-up letter that appeared the next day: Never can the reputation and standing of a Member of Parliament like Michael Foster have disintegrated in so spectacular and public a fashion. He abandoned his constituent Maya Evans to her fate for a “Serious and Organised Crime” on the very day the Government legal team to which he belongs was opposing the ban on torture in the courts.
On that same letters page there is also a response from Milan Rai, who may yet be charged.
1. To evict Brian Haw
2. To stifle protest at the heart of our democracy
Over to Milan Rai: The crucial issue is not whether you “give notice” to the police – as I did – but whether you fill in a new form requesting permission to hold your demonstration. Somehow Mr Foster thinks that these forms will protect us from terrorist atrocities disguised as anti-war protests. They don’t and they can’t. Filling in the new forms is co-operation with a law that forbids the use of loudspeakers (which undermines the ability of stewards to keep large crowds in order), and that gives the police the power to impose conditions on your protest that can rob it of any real meaning (an all-night vigil might be turned into a 20-minute protest). It’s a law that forbids any spontaneous protests near Parliament, and covers a wide area well beyond Parliament, across to the South Bank.
And now a quick word from moi: If the Blair government do anything so outlandish that it prompts immediate protest, from Monday the police will have the legal right to shut down any such protest at the very seat of our slowly dwindling democracy and arrest anyone they damn well please, just for being there. And that’s the real point of this stupid law. It may have been sold to willing MPs who (if they are human) feel pangs of guilt every time they have to pass Haw’s encampment, but what this is really about is stifling dissent.
If David Cameron had any balls or morals (or perhaps even a simple sense of priorities), his opening volley would have been aimed directly at this new legislation and Charles Clarke’s near-to-total exploitation of it.
Our government has crimes past and crimes ongoing to answer for and nothing – nothing – is going to move forward until these bastards are called to account. Education, health, the environment… nothing!
Further, the risk of terror only grows under a government that exacerbates the threat by seeking to manipulate it. Torturing people doesn’t help, either.
This matter must be addressed…. and your starter for ten is this legislation. It is specifically designed to minimise the consequences of our government’s actions, and exposes the Big Lie for what it is.
Perhaps David Cameron feels that if he lets it slide for a while he will have a better chance of winning an election against a discredited government. If that’s his plan, then he can fuck right off. The Brownies deserve a slap, too. They can take their planned smooth transition and stick it up their arse. Sideways.
The last thing we need right now is a bunch of bloody bystanders.
If we’re not careful, this could get very ugly: Tony Blair provokes terrorism. By denying what causes it and silencing dissent with anti-terror powers, he creates the very conditions in which terrorism thrives.
The matter of this government’s disgraceful conduct over Iraq and the ‘war’ on terror must be addressed, and it must be addressed now.
Start. With. This. Legislation.
The only alternative is to let the next bastard know that he can get away it.
UPDATE – Chicken Yoghurt – Protest too much