Restoring the right to protest with your keyboard
December 6, 2007 1:58 AM   Subscribe

The Government are clear that there should be no unnecessary restrictions on people's right to protest and it is right to review provisions which have generated such concern. Two years ago, the British government effectively removed the right to spontaneous peaceful protest around the UK Parliament. Now, that legislation is under review, with a public consultation open until mid-January.

Originally designed to supplement existing sessional orders which protected the abilitity of Members of Parliament to attend debates and votes, the legislation was a self-described "sledgehammer to crack a nut. But, he is a nut" as stated by the Rt Honourable David Blunkett, talking about the peace protester Brian Haw. In accomplishing that anti-democratic objective, it failed.

The harm has been done elsewhere, with a peace protester arrested, charged and convicted for reading the names of British Iraq war dead aloud outside Downing Street, the arrest of a man for holding a placard with an Orwell quote and the subsequent confiscation from him of photocopied Vanity Fair articles about the government's erosion of civil liberties.

With representations of Brian Haw's protest winning the Turner Prize, participation in a public forum will help the UK government remember the importance of dissent.
posted by Happy Dave (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
In accomplishing that anti-democratic objective, it failed.

Before it succeeded on appeal a year later. But the police still haven't actually been able to use the law against Haw yet. A later criminal case failed because the police did not follow proper procedure.
posted by grouse at 2:39 AM on December 6, 2007

When you start demonising your own supporters you lose the argument. I really do hope the Monster Raving Loony party are putting up a candidate in my area.
posted by gatchaman at 2:43 AM on December 6, 2007

isn't this the Riot Act all over again, but even worse because it's for peaceful protest?
posted by taumeson at 5:36 AM on December 6, 2007

Good luck restoring some of the rights taken away in these repressive times. Maybe we in the US will get a clue from your actions. How politicians can blather about the need to spread freedom and democracy while curtailing these same things at home and not choke on their own words is amazing to me.
posted by Hobgoblin at 5:47 AM on December 6, 2007

So this is what that protester scene in "The Trial of Tony Blair" is about. OK.
posted by scalefree at 6:16 AM on December 6, 2007

More on SOCPA from Mark Thomas... [1, 2, 3]
posted by normy at 6:43 AM on December 6, 2007

Much as I detest this piece of legislation, there are far more pernicious ones out there - the 1997 Protection From Harassment Act, as amended by SOCPA, has made a law designed to protect people from stalkers into a multi-purpose tool for repressing peaceful protest all across the UK. Unless the government plan to repeal that section of SOCPA as well, this is just a cosmetic gesture.
posted by aihal at 7:06 AM on December 6, 2007

normy, those Youtube clips are genius, thanks!
posted by Happy Dave at 9:40 AM on December 6, 2007

I love Mark Thomas.
posted by knapah at 10:55 AM on December 7, 2007

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