Methinks they doth protest too much

This entry was posted on
Monday, April 24th, 2006
9:46 am and is filed
under The War on Stupid.

I meant to blog this article (below), but at the time I was too busy offering to build Simon Carr a website (so, just for example, he could go head-to-head with the Safety Elephant instead of having his argument hidden behind a subscription wall)…

Independent – Simon Carr: If you still think you live in a liberal and democratic society, then please read on (15 April 2006)

Charles Clarke goes on the offensive today, mainly because – as the Independent points out before giving him space for his rant; “Labour wants to make its record of legislation on issues such as antisocial behaviour and terrorism a central plank of its campaign for the local elections next month.”

So, without further ado, here is Charles Clarke exploiting the terrorist threat and wasting taxpayers’ money with a political broadcast for the Labour Party on a government website…

Oh… wait… it’s not live on the Labour Party campaign Home Office website yet. We’ll have to make do with the edited version. No matter; there are only two points I wish to raise this morning beyond the use of the widely discredited ‘people have a right not to get blown up’ mantra…

1. Oh, not it’s not. Oh, yes it is!

Charles Clarke: Or what about this statement: “People wearing satirical T-shirts in a ‘designated area’ may be arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. The City of London is a permanently ‘designated area’.” Wrong again, Mr Carr. There is no such provision in any Prevention of Terrorism Act.

If that is the case, then perhaps Mr Clarke can explain this:

The Guardian – When a slogan equals terrorism (3 October 2005): John Catt was wearing a T-shirt proclaiming “Bush Blair Sharon to be tried for war crimes torture human rights abuse” and, lower down, “the leaders of rogue states”. The stop-and-search form filled out by the police officer stated, under grounds for intervention, “carrying plackard [sic] and T-shirt with anti-Blair info”. The purpose of the stop and search was stated as “terrorism”. So now we know. For the Sussex police, at any rate, an anti-Blair slogan is a ground for suspecting terrorism.

2. Look out! Behind you!

Charles Clarke: In some instances, however, Simon Carr is broadly right. For example, as he says, “People can protest in Parliament Square only with the written permission of the police. Where ‘reasonably practical’, six days’ notice must be given. “In some cases 24 hours notice is sufficient. He also doesn’t bother to say that since the legislation came into effect last August, 157 demonstrations have taken place in Parliament Square, on issues ranging from human rights in Burma to a protest about the right to protest itself. Organisers of demonstrations must give prior notice to the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, who is then obliged to authorise the demonstration although he may attach conditions where it is necessary. This is more or less the same as the situation that prevailed in the 1970s when I organised demonstrations in Parliament Square. Maybe Simon Carr attended some of them…

On the latter comment; we’ve played this game before, where people like Jack Straw dust off their activist credentials and/or do their best to suggest that they have done far more to protect the rights of others than any damn know-all journalist/activist and therefore must surely be in the right now. After all, they only seek to restrict our right to protest in order to protect our right to protest.

On the nature of authorisation versus exclusion, the suggestion that all you have to do is ask for permission and you’ll be on your merry way is downright dishonest. Police can (and do) dictate the path you take, restrict the number of protestors allowed, restrict the use of placards and more. Given the past behaviour of this government, I think it’s fair to say that this passage should be rewritten to read; “attach conditions where it is necessary to protect Tony Blair from embarrassment.”

Charles Clarke also neglects to mention that the use of electronic megaphones (a vital tool required to address, enliven and marshal crowds) is forbidden altogether. I stood there on the 22nd of August 2005 and watched as a relative of Jean Charles de Menezes sought to thank the attending crowd for their support after they had delivered a petition asking for a public inquiry to Downing St. The poor woman was near to tears and struggling to be heard until someone handed her a megaphone. She got maybe a dozen words out before the police stepped in and reminded her that – while the gathering was authorised – her use of an electronic amplification device was not. (I’ll try to be fair here… she was already crying, so this brave police officer did not make her cry… he only made her cry *more*…)

But I think I’ve identified the real whopper here:

Charles Clarke: (Carr) also doesn’t bother to say that since the legislation came into effect last August, 157 demonstrations have taken place in Parliament Square, on issues ranging from human rights in Burma to a protest about the right to protest itself…

But *Clarke* doesn’t bother to say how many of these protests have been authorised.

Charles Clarke would look pretty fucking stupid if he appeared to be defending this legislation by using those who risked arrest to defy it as a statistic working in its favour.


Witness Tony Blair using the same sleight of hand.

Read Simon Carr’s initial response.

Check out this comprehensive fisking.

Ask why media response to this issue is being carefully scrutinised while black propaganda over Iran is not.

Read many comments and try to work out which ones come directly from anonymous flunkies at Labour HQ.


Charles Clarke didn’t make clear how many of those 157 demonstrations were of the authorised variety… and doesn’t even KNOW how many of those 157 demonstrations were of the authorised variety! Incredible!

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