Posts Tagged ‘Hizb ut Tahrir’

Freedom To Protest Under Threat

Wednesday, January 12th, 2022

Back in 2008, people were protesting against the severe restrictions against our freedom to protest, that had been brought in by the Labour government under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. As well as greatly widening the powers to arrest people and widening the scope of harassment, the act had criminalised trespass at certain protected sites and severely limited the holding of protests in a wide designated area of up to one kilometre from any point in Parliament Square.

CSG border post “To the left you have lost your freedom to protest

This latter provision was particularly aimed at Brian Haw and his Parliament Square Peace Campaign, but also prevented many other protests, and led to a number of arrests of campaigners. Parliament Square in particular had become the main focus of protests against the government and may government ministries were also inside the prohibited area.

There was wide disquiet about the effect of SOCPA on protest, and Prime Minister Gordon Brown had begun a public consultation with the Home Office on October 2007 issuing a document ‘Managing Protest’ which many felt threatened further threats to freedom of assembly throughout the UK.

The provisions regarding protests in the area around Parliament were replaced in 2011 by the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011 which gave police more draconian powers to restrict certain prohibited activities in and around Parliament Square – and have been used to seize tents, umbrellas, tarpaulins, sleeping bags and other equipment in the area.

Brian Haw complains that a police officer pushed his camera into his face and caused this injury

The Freedom to Protest is under even greater threat now, with the current passage through Parliament of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – which a select committee has said “would curb non-violent protest in a way that is inconsistent with our human rights” and has led to many ‘Kill the Bill’ protests. Also disturbing is the reaction of many Tory politicians to the jury verdict in the Colston statue trial, which apears to be threatening state control of our legal system.

On Saturday 12th January 2008, I covered protests in Trafalgar Square and in front of Downing St upholding the freedom to protest. Earlier I had covered Hizb ut Tahrir marching to the Saudi Embassy against Bush’s Middle East tour and a small group of rich young people outside the National Gallery on the last day of the Siena exhibition protesting against the expansion of Siena airport which would bring more less well-heeled tourists into the area.

Although I’m very much against any expansion of air travel – the planet simply can’t afford it, I found it hard to take this particular protest too seriously – it seemed to be rather more about protecting privilege than opposing environmental crime.

And while I had gone to Downing St mainly for the Freedom to Protest demonstration, while there I photographed another protest calling on an end to the Israeli government’s siege of Gaza. This included a number of British Jews, including those calling for a boycott of Israeli goods.

Also present opposite Downing St were another large group of Kenyans, protesting against the re-election of the incumbent President Mwai Kibaki. A US commissioned exit poll suggested opposition leader Raila Odinga had won by a 6% margin and there was widespread international agreement that the election was rigged.

More on My London Diary:
Hizb ut Tahrir against Bush tour
Siena Airport Protest
CSG Border Post
Freedom to Protest – Downing St
End Gaza Seige
Kenyans Protest Election Fraud


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