Friday, June 17, 2005

Silent protest


Tim at Bloggerheads has helpfully drawn a map of the areas of London in which you are no longer allowed to protest. At all. For any reason. If I were standing outside, say, Channel Four's headquarters in Horseferry Road and I decided to say in a loud voice how much I despise this government's attempts to stifle free speech, I could probably be arrested (actually, will the exclusion zone mean that Channel Four can no longer interview anyone who wishes to disagree with the government?). I can't - in theory, at least - even wear a political wristband.

It seems we can't even protest at St Thomas's Hospital or the London Aquarium.

The text of the 'statutory instrument' can be found here.

Did anyone notice this happening? No, nor me. Say goodbye to those Stop the War rallies. Say goodbye to Brian Haw, who peacefully protested single-handedly outside Downing Street. Say goodbye even to the Countryside Alliance marches (OK, I won't be shedding too many tears over that one). There was no Home Office press release. There was no 'public consultation' about the area covered by the zone. The Mayor of London's blog reports that their request for guidance about these regulations (under the Freedom of Information Act) has been delayed by the Home Office. Thank God for Tim, Anthony, Justin, Robin & co., who deliberately keep an eye out for these things.

Unless this entire legislation has been introduced in order to be able to remove Brian Haw (which is not impossible*), then I don't see why the police couldn't just have checked the ID cards of everyone turning up for a protest, logged them on their super-database, then banned them from being part of any future public assembly.

Good God, this legislation would have criminalised me, Mrs Gnu (who is in all other respects completely non-political), my two disabled friends, my ex-wife and dozens of children, all of whom turned up to march against the Iraq war in 2003. Is this what New Labour is about? Criminalising one and a half million of its own citizens, many of whom voted for it anyway? Even Mao didn't do this (he just shot them, instead).

* See above.

UPDATE: Mayor of London's blog announces a public meeting on 29 June on this very subject.


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