Your right to protest is under threat
December 18, 2010 1:35 PM   Subscribe

"The message to [t]his generation is very clear: don’t get any fancy ideas about being an engaged citizen. Go back to your X-Box and X-Factor, and leave politics to the millionaires in charge." - Johann Hari of the Independent reporting on an unnerving trend in the UK.

Current austerity measures enacted in the UK has caused a revival of public activism especially amongst the younger generation.
One week ago, 12 year old Nicky Wishart tried to organise a protest over the closure of his local youth club and was subsequently threatened with arrest. Three days ago Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson said he was considering to ask the Home Secretary to enforce a total ban on student protests all across the UK. Meanwhile the law enforcement relationship between the police and the general public appears to be a one-way street.
posted by rubyrudy (52 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
I live in England now and I need to sort some things for non-Britons who might be looking at this thread. There is no law of freedom of speech in the UK.
posted by parmanparman at 1:42 PM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


This generation?
posted by Pope Guilty at 1:50 PM on December 18, 2010


dear parmanparman:
You mean the tea party lads way back in 1776 were onto something?
posted by Postroad at 1:59 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


You mean the tea party lads way back in 1776 were onto something?

The past ones, yes, but the current ones...
posted by lauratheexplorer at 2:02 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile...The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) reports 111 complaints against the police in relation to the student protests (and that is a 'so far' recording); the Joint Committee on Human Rights is being sent statements about kettling and police although sadly the demonstrators' 'representatives' gave a pretty poor showing at a recent inquiry; and I'll leave you with my absolute favourite photograph so far of the events, the remaining vestiges of the crowd kettled on Wesminster Bridge where they had been told to move in order to be allowed free. By this point those people had been seven or eight hours without access to water, food, shelter or toilets.
Oh! And rumours are boiling over in the twitterverse that the far right movement, the English Defense League, has been trying to organise fake protests in order to discredit (or possibly attack) student and left wing protestors, for example this entirely police and union unsanctioned and highly debated 'event'
Heady times.
posted by AFII at 2:05 PM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Early reports suggest UKuncut had a pretty good day today (Twitter feed has links/pics from today's protests).
posted by bright cold day at 2:12 PM on December 18, 2010


There is no law of freedom of speech in the UK
This is not an absolute right in the UK, however The European Convention on Human Rights does provide the right to freedom of expression and the right to freedom of assembly. This website is a good resource on the right to peaceful protest in the UK
posted by rubyrudy at 2:13 PM on December 18, 2010


The reports coming out of these protests have significantly lowered my opinion of the UKs government, in the back of my mind I had always assumed that it was more civilized than the US. Very exciting to see students keeping at it, however. In the US it's certainly not an uncommon opinion to view the Baby Boomers as vampiric leeches, sucking out all hopes for economic or political progress to the point that quality of life in the Western World looks like it's actually declining, but I don't see as many organized protests.
posted by Llama-Lime at 2:16 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


the revolution will be televised but it will be marginalized as something to do with student fees or attacked royals
posted by lslelel at 2:26 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


The UK takes a surprising lead in the race to the bottom.
posted by 2bucksplus at 2:29 PM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Is any of this protesting affecting Cameron's popularity? Is it going to have any impact
posted by delmoi at 2:34 PM on December 18, 2010


Lack of an explicit right to freedom of speech might encourage people to be more aggressive in politically protecting their freedoms, though. Americans can sometimes seem a little complacent in their trust of the courts.
posted by planet at 2:35 PM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


"There is no law of freedom of speech in the UK."

Weeeeelll... there is. The Human Rights Act 1988 put the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law.

Reading it though... starts out well, then pokes holes in itself.
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.
Full text (Article 10 is the Freedom of Expression one; 11 is for assembly)
posted by Auz at 2:56 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Sir Paul Stephenson said he was considering to ask the Home Secretary to enforce a total ban on student protests all across the UK

As the linked article says, it's marches – not protests per se – which they are thinking about banning.
posted by mattn at 2:58 PM on December 18, 2010


So in the link on "enforce a total ban on student protests" the Commissioner says "We can’t ban a demonstration but we can ban a march, subject to approval by the Home Secretary." What's the difference between a demonstration and a march?
posted by XMLicious at 2:58 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Wow the Metro Police Commissioner comes off like a real fucking star in that article. Aren't there any adults to keep things calm and let people express themselves. Is there some class thing between the police and the student protesters that might not come across to Americans.

I mean this is just dripping with contempt

Speaking at New Scotland Yard, he said there was a "stark contrast" between the violent scenes in Westminster and homes with crying parents and shocked young people when police arrived.

He added: “I would urge those who turn up for protests to think about the impact this could have on their future careers.”

That attitude should be a fireable offense.
posted by JPD at 3:01 PM on December 18, 2010 [13 favorites]


What's the difference between a demonstration and a march?

Velocity?
posted by scody at 3:09 PM on December 18, 2010 [10 favorites]


Pope Guilty: This generation?
Well, this is the one with X-boxes, so yes. Before that it was skateboards, and before that drugs and sex.
But the message has always been don't stick your head up, it will get shot off/hammered down.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 3:17 PM on December 18, 2010


I'm a British citizen who has lived outside the country since 2004. I'm often asked when I think I will go back. At no point in the last 6 years have I been able to give a timeframe. I don't see that changing anytime soon.
posted by jontyjago at 3:40 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


This generation looks interesting. (yt video)
posted by Baldons at 3:45 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


There has been a virtual news blackout on todays shop protests.
posted by Fat Buddha at 3:51 PM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also worth checking out the BBC's appalling on-air treatment of disabled protester Jody McIntyre and the mealy-mouthed response from the news editor.

The BBC showing her true blue establishment colours.
posted by bright cold day at 4:11 PM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


Kettling is a subtle and incredibly violent form of incarceration. The threats are fundamentally no different than a soccer riot: crushing, trampling, heat exhaustion, and of course no possible way to get aid to those in need. When you hear "civilized" folk complain about the starvation tactics of 3rd world juntas, well this is the exact same technique. Pen them in like animals and prevent health & human services from providing aid. This would be an outright violation of the Geneva Convention if the protesters were in military uniform.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 4:22 PM on December 18, 2010 [4 favorites]


delmoi: Is any of this protesting affecting Cameron's popularity? Is it going to have any impact

It's affecting his parliamentary majority, if not quite enough... So yeah, I think it's fair to say it has some impact.
posted by Dysk at 4:23 PM on December 18, 2010


(Apologies for linking to the Torygraph, it was the first news source that came up in Google. I see their spin on the protests on the 9th is... one-sided.)
posted by Dysk at 4:25 PM on December 18, 2010


Also worth checking out the BBC's appalling on-air treatment of disabled protester Jody McIntyre and the mealy-mouthed response from the news editor.

Wow. That was absolutely disgusting.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:27 PM on December 18, 2010


Americans don't have freedom of speech. It's a ridiculously common misunderstanding. What the First Amendment says is "Congress shall make no law ..." etc. It does nothing to protect your freedom of speech in any context whatsoever apart from the very narrow context of laws made by Congress. It does nothing to protect you from being fired from your job, from being banned from a "public" commercial area, maintain your access to the internet, etc etc. As an American you only have freedom of speech so long as that speech doesn't cause monetary loss, or otherwise piss off, someone other than Congress who has power over you.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 4:35 PM on December 18, 2010 [7 favorites]


As an American you only have freedom of speech so long as that speech doesn't cause monetary loss, or otherwise piss off, someone other than Congress who has power over you.

So then no one anywhere has freedom of anything, if you're defining "freedom" as "the ability to do something with absolutely no consequences whatsoever." I'm glad your Philosophy 101 class finally let out. I bet the TA loved reading your final.
posted by Etrigan at 5:27 PM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Talking of kettling and football tragedies…..
posted by Fat Buddha at 5:45 PM on December 18, 2010


As an American you only have freedom of speech so long as that speech doesn't cause monetary loss, or otherwise piss off, someone other than Congress who has power over you.

Not true. Speech does not become unprotected merely because it causes monetary loss. Nor does speech become unprotected because a non-congressperson is upset. Speech protections aren't even limited to laws passed by Congress. They're incorporated through the 14th Amendment, and they apply to any state action, not just legislative.

So, it protects you in the "very narrow context" of state action. Wake up, sheeple, indeed.
posted by Marty Marx at 5:55 PM on December 18, 2010 [2 favorites]


Interesting -- I wondered if kettling might constitute false imprisonment, but the answer seems to be no.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:56 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


I think the entire British austerity plan was created by the same Mets office guys who decided that the volcano in Iceland was sending huge invisible clouds of ash that would obliterate any plane that dared to cross it.
posted by humanfont at 6:40 PM on December 18, 2010


Johann Hari has been writing some really good stuff recently. I'm glad someone is willing to tell it like it is, since the rest of the media has been bought and paid for already.
posted by harriet vane at 8:32 PM on December 18, 2010 [3 favorites]


This may be an unpopular position but I have always seen the heart of nonviolent protest is the predicted provocation of a harsh regime. Good people get beat down, the public is outraged, change slowly happens. Plenty of people have been arrested or hurt in peaceful protests and some have died. Without a reaction, you might as well have stayed home. If you really care about something, you have to protest knowing that you will probably get arrested and maybe even get hurt and fuck the free speech zones.
posted by Foam Pants at 8:45 PM on December 18, 2010


Is any of this protesting affecting Cameron's popularity? Is it going to have any impact

According to the Guardian anyway, the student protests and back-tracking on tuition rates have created a wedge within the Liberal Democrats (the junior coalition partners), so you might see some sort of splintering in that party. If enough Lib Dem MPs leave the party and sit on the opposite side of the aisle, perhaps the government could fall.

And then Britons could look forward to Death-Ray Panda (heh) being in charge.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:18 PM on December 18, 2010


Oh, Brother Dysk beat me to it.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:19 PM on December 18, 2010


You know that Gordon Brown chap doesn't seem like such a bad fellow, a bit dower and a Scot of course, but iirc he was managing that fiscal crisis pretty well. Maybe you should consider brining him back. No crazy eyes either.
posted by humanfont at 9:39 PM on December 18, 2010 [1 favorite]


Americans don't have freedom of speech. It's a ridiculously common misunderstanding. What the First Amendment says is "Congress shall make no law ..." etc. It does nothing to protect your freedom of speech in any context whatsoever apart from the very narrow context of laws made by Congress.
This may be a shock to you, but the constitution has more then one amendment.
posted by delmoi at 11:33 PM on December 18, 2010


What's the difference between a demonstration and a march?

Under the Public Order Act it is a requirement that organizers give at least six days written notice to the police for processions (marches) in nearly all cases. This must include times and proposed routes, as well as details of the organizers who cane be held legally liable if the march deviates form the agreed route or duration. The ploice are able to impose conditions, including changing the route. In addition the police have the power to ban all marches in a particular area for up to three months.

No such notice is required for assemblies (static demonstrations) though a senior police officer present may impose restrictions on the duration, location and/or number of people present. In addition the police have the power to prohibit open air assemblies or more than 20 people if they are held on private land without permission.
posted by tallus at 11:43 PM on December 18, 2010


I feel the obvious solution to being kettled is violence.
posted by Shit Parade at 1:08 AM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


The correct solution, not just the obvious one. The Left needs to be willing to assert itself physically. That's what all the 'to the barricades!" stuff means. Martyrs win hearts and minds.
posted by Peztopiary at 2:17 AM on December 19, 2010


Dancin' in the street: the BBC's Paul Mason on the Dubstep rebellion - the British banlieue comes to Millbank and also Dan Hancox's a 2010 Riot Playlist.
posted by Mister Bijou at 2:17 AM on December 19, 2010


Shit Parade, but that's the very reaction they're trying to provoke, so as they can dismiss the entire movement as 'violent thugs' while showing corroborating video on the nine-o'clock news. It also gives them a pretext to justify violence against protesters, as well as go so far as possibly call for a ban on protest, since they're clearly just there to beat up the police.

That being said, if it were me caught in a kettle, I can't be sure I wouldn't be going for the balls, and blood.
posted by Dysk at 2:26 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


The sad thing for me is that in the very first student protest (of this set, of course), the Met seemed wary of overreacting and had a nice light presence appropriate for a peaceful protest. But then it did become violent and since then, the police have returned to their usual heavy response.

I am certainly not defending kettling - I was almost caught in one when I went to find out what was going on at the May Day riot protests in 2001. In that case the police were forming squares but allowing people to leave if they wanted. It still didn't feel pleasant or safe.
posted by fizban at 2:54 AM on December 19, 2010


Do you not think it's possible that they allowed the first protest to get out of hand (knowing that it would be the first of many) in order to justify these tactics later on, as well as giving a message to Lord Dave not to cut the Police too deeply? Wouldn't put it past them.

After all, the Police are a military force, the way they can get the upper hand in situations is organising them so that they require a military response. Where there aren't enough Trotskyite/Class War nutters to provide them with justification, they always have their own agents on the ground. I suspect that the nutters and the agents provocateurs are often the same people.

Anyway, a few windows get smashed and the plod get a chance to break a few heads.

Whatever.

F.T.P.
posted by Grangousier at 3:25 AM on December 19, 2010


I think they're a bit too late because this generation is already making itself quite clear.

... how ever much they try to imprison us in the streets of London, those are our streets. We will always be there to demonstrate, we will always be there to fight... We are no longer that generation that doesn't care, we are no longer that generation to sit back and take whatever they give us. We are now the generation at the heart of the fight back. - Fifteen-year-old Barnaby
posted by Twang at 4:52 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


JPD: Wow the Metro Police Commissioner comes off like a real fucking star in that article. Aren't there any adults to keep things calm and let people express themselves. Is there some class thing between the police and the student protesters that might not come across to Americans.
1. The London Metropolitan Police have a well-earned reputation for extremism and general organizational stupidity. In a well-known case a couple of years ago, they confiscated a sign calling Scientology a "cult" from a 15-year-old boy during a legal protest, and then attempted to prosecute him.

2. Yes. There is, unfortunately, a deeply ingrained, class-inflected anti-intellectualism here that's not going away. A lot of working-class Tories hate university students and all they represent. A surprising number of people here also seem to think that there are altogether too many people going to university (even though the UK's HE participation rates are lower than, say, Slovakia's and illiteracy rates 3 or 4 times higher than Germany or Sweden), and that young people should do something more useful with their lives. Like stocking shelves at Waitrose or joining the Metropolitan Police, presumably.
posted by Sonny Jim at 6:06 AM on December 19, 2010


A surprising number of people here also seem to think that there are altogether too many people going to university

Count me as one of those people. Aiming for 50% participation in over-18 education is what has led to this situation. That number of students just isn't sustainable from a funding point of view. It also means a degree is now a minimum requirement for most professional jobs, even though most professional jobs do NOT need that level of education, leading to a situation where young people are asked to choose between a potentially low-paying career or years of debt. Which is no choice at all.

Resentment towards the students may well have something to do with anti-intellectualism, but from the comments I've been reading it seems to be more to do with the idea of students being lazy freeloaders, just like benefit recipients.
posted by Summer at 9:29 AM on December 19, 2010 [1 favorite]


fizban, they only got 'violent' in the sense that they cracked a few windows. All of proper violence (rather than mere vandalism) happened at subsequent protests, in response to violence perpetrated by the Met...
posted by Dysk at 9:43 AM on December 19, 2010


Sure, Summer, but even though the Blair government set 50% HE participation as a goal, this doesn't mean that that figure was ever achieved. In 2008, the proportion of "young people" graduating with university degrees was 35%, a figure behind the corresponding rates in Portugal, Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia. We demonstrably do not have a problem with too many university graduates: quite the opposite, in fact.
Resentment towards the students may well have something to do with anti-intellectualism, but from the comments I've been reading it seems to be more to do with the idea of students being lazy freeloaders, just like benefit recipients.
Sounds like anti-intellectualism to me. "What do you mean you, think about stuff? That's not work ..."
posted by Sonny Jim at 11:16 AM on December 19, 2010 [2 favorites]


"The London Metropolitan Police have a well-earned reputation for extremism and general organizational stupidity. In a well-known case a couple of years ago, they confiscated a sign calling Scientology a "cult" from a 15-year-old boy during a legal protest, and then attempted to prosecute him."

This is entirely untrue. The sign was confiscated by the City of London police, a far smaller and frankly less proficient force who only deal with the City of London itself, a small area in the centre of London. The two really have very different cultures.
posted by jaduncan at 2:03 AM on December 20, 2010


Inside the Kettle - Letters from students kettled and beaten by the police
posted by Artw at 4:38 PM on December 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


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