This blog is a political blog from a left-of-centre perspective. This is not specifically a party political blog, but does have a Lib Dem orientation. Constructive enagement with radical liberals, social democrats / democratic socialists and greens is particularly welcomed.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Freedom of Speech ....for some ?

Yesterday whilst in my local town centre I stopped to chat to two campaigners from South Devon Animal Rights Group. They were quietly positioned, armed only with a couple of League Against Cruel Sports posters. Within a couple of minutes the Police came along and asked if I found the posters offensive. I said no, of course not, as a member of LACS !

That wasn't the 'required' answer.

The police tried to move on this quiet couple in their later middle-age. The officers argued they'd received complaints, but seemed entirely unconvincing. Upon challenging this myself and what law was actually been broken and proclaiming the right to freedom of speech, Officer 5570's tune changed and I became the focus of her ire. Whatever happened to free speech ? Why is it that the police will go to all sorts of lengths to say protect provactive BNP / neo-fascist marches and their right to promote their truly 'offensive' brand of racist bile, but two quiet campaigners are harassed ? The power of the pro-hunt lobby ?

Now most larger cities usually have a posse of competing campaigners, be they pro-life activists with often graphic plackards and occasionally even a intimidatory presence outside abortion clinics, there's the SWP comic book 'revolutionaries', the fundamentalist Christian preacher, No ID Cards signature gatherers and leafletters for pubs, clubs restaurants et al. I don't have to agree with any of the above, but if they peaceably go about their business I support their right to a public space. They threaten no-one.

The example of legislation being enacted to thwart peace campaigner and anti-Iraq war protester Brian Haw from campaigning within the vicinity of Westminster is an example of how authoritarian this government is. Stopping debate in your own party is one thing, but trying to stifle freedom of speech in the country is something more sinister indeed.

Ironically further up Union Street was some local 'head the ball' [No not local UKIP members this time] explicitly approaching people and pushing a book from some cult or other and actively soliciting 'donations'. A much more intrusive action, but of course, by then the Police had gone and 'complaints' could not be heard. I had wanted to see how consistent the Police would be !

I will compain to the Devon and Cornwall Constabulary but expect precisely nothing to come of it. 1984 anyone ?


Blogger Tristan said...

Whilst I almost certainly disagree with the protestors, their right to peaceful protest and free speech should never be taken away.

This 'causing offence' law which seems to be promulgating (eg the numerous 'Bollocks to Blair' T-shirt incidents) and it is very very dangerous.

I am offended regularly, each time I hear a Labour minister speak it seems, but we cannot let mere offense restrict the right to free speech.

It is disgusting.

1:26 pm BST


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