This entry was posted on
Tuesday, January 10th, 2006 at
10:10 am and is filed
under The War on Stupid.
BBC – Safety fears at ‘illegal’ protest: A police sergeant feared for his colleagues’ safety at a demonstration over new laws banning protests near Parliament, a court has heard… Mr Nunn told the court Mr Shaer used a loud hailer to call the police fascists and accused them of trying to gag demonstrators… He said he ordered officers to withdraw in an attempt to let the protesters disperse but his colleagues became more tightly packed among the crowd. Mr Nunn told the court: “At this point I was concerned regarding the safety of the officers and so I instructed Pc Hunt and Pc Minnahan to start effecting the arrests.” He said Mr Shaer was the focal point of the protest and when police arrested him Ms Gallastegui tried to drag him away.
You’ll pardon me for saying so, but what a load of unmitigated bullshit.
Exhibit A – Immediately prior to arrests:
Note that while Aqil Shaer may be holding the megaphone, it is Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn actually using it. Also note that the police in the background are not “tightly packed among the crowd,” but instead are quite relaxed, and enjoying complete freedom of movement.
Exhibit B – The police move in:
Jeremy Corbyn is still in place, and from this photo one might very well get the impression that both men are about to be arrested. One might also surmise from this picture that – now, at least – the police are “tightly packed among the crowd”… but this did not happen until after they moved in and the media rush to get pictures of an arrest (clearly visible in the foreground) is a big reason for this sudden change/charge.
Exhibit C – Pandemonium:
The media are right ‘on top of things’ and all police attention is on Aqil Shaer. Jeremy Corbyn (highlighted on the upper right) has been removed from the scene.
Exhibit D – Aqil Shaer is arrested:
Note that protestors that were previously distributed around Parliament Square are now rushing toward the scene. Again, it should be recognised that it was the actions of the police that prompted this alleged safety issue. Oh, and the man apparently making a grab for the megaphone will want to watch himself; anyone using a megaphone in this area (who is not a Labour MP) risks arrest.
(Original full-sized images can be seen here.)
The arrest of Jeremy Corbyn would have caused Tony Blair’s government some embarrassment. As would the arrest of Cherie Blair’s sister, Lauren Booth, who was also present and active in this protest.
It also needs to be pointed out that the primary reason for friction on the day was the police being deliberately and annoyingly coy about whether or not they were actually going to use these new powers. Even after people were arrested, they refused to say under which conditions/powers arrests were made.
Police claims that safety concerns prompted the initial arrest of Aqil Shaer are false.
Police claims that – at the time of arrest – Aqil Shaer was the focus of attention (and therefore the cause of alleged safety concerns) are also false.
Lord Falconer appeared recently on Radio 4 to assure the public that this new legislation is fair in that it applies to ‘everyone’.
It isn’t and it doesn’t.
It didn’t apply to those of us demonstrating on December 21st, because this would have caused Tony Blair embarrassment*.
It didn’t apply to Jeremy Corbyn, because his arrest would have caused Tony Blair embarrassment.
It didn’t apply to Lauren Booth, because her arrest would have caused Tony Blair embarrassment.
It did apply to Maya Evans, because allowing her to read out names of soldiers killed in Iraq at the Cenotaph would have caused Tony Blair embarrassment.
And it may or may not apply to a certain gentleman who actually lives within the exclusion zone… a lot appears to depend on whether or not he intends to cause Tony Blair embarrassment:
THE SERIOUS ORGANISED CRIME AND POLICE ACT – AN ABSOLUTELY GENUINE PHONE CALL FROM A TFT CONTRIBUTOR
Ring, ring. Ring, ring.
‘Hello, New Scotland Yard, how may I help you?’
‘Hello, I wonder if you can help me?’
‘Good. I’ve just been looking at the map of your protest exclusion zone around Parliament Square.’
‘It’s not an exclusion zone, sir.’
‘It’s not an exclusion zone. If you want to protest, you need to get permission. We’re not excluding protest.’
‘How exactly can I help you, sir?’
‘Well, the funny thing is, I was looking at your exclusion…’
‘Permission zone around Parliament Square and I realised my new flat is right smack-bang in the middle of it..’
‘I have a question.’
‘Well, you see, I have a roof terrace which can be seen from the road. I was just wondering whether I’d be allowed to protest there if I wanted to? I’m just worried about being arrested and having all my banners torn up.’
‘Who owns the property, sir?’
‘And who are you planning on protesting against?’
‘Who are you planning to protest against?’
‘Does that matter? The point is whether it’s now illegal for me to protest on my own roof… Let’s say I’m protesting against myself.’
‘Are you planning to protest against yourself?’
‘Well, I don’t like myself very much at the moment, so let’s say yes…’
‘Then that’s a good question, sir. I’ll have to put you through to my colleague who deals with SOCRA [the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act] at Bloomsbury.’
Ring, ring. Ring… Click.
‘Yes… protest… exclusion…’
‘Sorry, protest… permission… roof terrace… myself…’
‘Let me look at my map. Well, as far as I know, as no-one would be likely to complain if you were to protest against yourself…’
‘OK. Forget me then. What about if I was protesting against my neighbour?’
‘On your roof?’
‘Well, then that would depend whether they were likely to see it and be upset by it.’
‘Not see it and not be upset? OK. Got it. Oh, only thing is, my neighbour is the Home Office.’
‘Well, if you’re protesting against the Government and they were likely to see the protest then you’d need to come in and have a chat with us.’
‘Oh, right, OK. But only if I’m likely to upset them.’
‘What do you mean, sir?’
‘Well, if I protested *for* the Government that would be OK?’
‘*For* the Government? You mean protesting in favour of the Government?’
‘Then that wouldn’t be a protest.’
‘Got it. So it’s only illegal if I’m protesting against the Government in a way that might upset them?’
‘Yes, no. That’s not what I actually said.’
‘Oh, I’m terribly sorry. What did you actually say?’
‘I said that if you wanted to protest against the Government on your roof terrace then you should come in and have a chat with us first.’
‘But only if I’m protesting against the Government.’
‘In a way that might upset them.’
‘Otherwise I might be arrested?’
‘It’s possible, sir, yes.’
‘Thank you sir, is there anything else I can help you with?’
‘No. Yes. Are you going to the carol concert in Parliament Square tomorrow?’
‘Parliament Square comes under Charing Cross, sir, you’d have to ask them.’
‘Right ho! Merry Christmas.’
‘Thank you for your call, sir.’
(*Allow me to clarify something I blogged the night of the carol service…. The police were hiding. Not keeping a low profile in order to avoid antagonising the crowd, but hiding. When I moved the crowd for (ahem) safety reasons, the backdrop for the media suddenly switched from the Treasury building to the gates of Parliament. About 30 seconds later, the police on duty at that gate received a call and immediately hid from view. The police were obviously under instructions not to be photographed anywhere near the event.)