George Monbiot, on the implementation of new anti-terror laws, referencing the arrest of Walter Wolfgang –
Had Mr Wolfgang said “nonsense” twice during the foreign secretary’s speech, the police could have charged him under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997. Harassment, the act says, “must involve conduct on at least two occasions … conduct includes speech.”(5) Parliament was told that its purpose was to protect women from stalkers, but the first people to be arrested were three peaceful protesters.(6) Since then it has been used by the arms manufacturer EDO to keep demonstrators away from its factory gates,(7) and by Kent police to arrest a woman who sent an executive at a drugs company two polite emails, begging him not to test his products on animals.(8) In 2001 the peace campaigners Lindis Percy and Anni Rainbow were prosecuted for causing “harassment, alarm or distress” to American servicemen at the Menwith Hill military intelligence base in Yorkshire, by standing at the gate holding the stars and stripes and a placard reading “George W Bush? Oh dear!”.(9) In Hull a protester was arrested under the act for “staring at a building”.(10)
Read the whole article – the number of laws enacted and misused since the much-maligned ‘Criminal Justice Act’ of the early 90s is staggering. The suppression of dissent is surely one of the hallmarks of a repressive regime – just the kind of behaviour that Tony and his buddy Dubya are always telling us is threatening democracy in all them foreign lands where bad people threaten our ‘freedoms’. Just in the paragraph above, the catalogue of misapplication of laws supposedly enacted to prevent terrorism should be enough to get any self-respecting supporter of the democratic right to disagree with your leaders up in arms. How any labour or lib-dem MP can possibly be silent in the light of such behaviour is mind-boggling. As George points out, it’s taken the aggressive man-handling of an octogenarian at the party conference for most of us to wake up to just how pernicious the outworking of these laws is, supposedly in the name of protecting liberty.
I don’t know about you, but I’m less worried right now about bombers than I am about the enactment of these crazy laws. Parliament can do what it wants, without anyone having the right to respond with even their presence outside the building. No placards, no massed gatherings, all in the cause of getting rid of Brian Haw.
Time to start making some noise about it methinks. Perhaps a letter to your MP might be in order?
Soundtrack – Charlie Peacock, ‘Love Press Ex-Curio’ (I’ve had this for a few weeks now, and I think it’s actually released now as well – it’s a fantastic change of direction for Charlie, whose previous work was kind of funky singer/songwriter stuff, fairly heavily Prince-influenced in places and very soulful. This is a contemporary jazz record, featuring lots of the biggest names in the field – Ravi Coltrane, Jeff Coffin, Kurt Rosenwinkel, Joey Baron, James Genus, Victor Wooten, Kirk Whalum etc. etc. The sound is sort of Avishai Cohen/Dave Douglas/lots of other new york electric jazz peoples ball-park, and the writing and play are top notch. If you’re into that kind of thing, it’s a must, especially as all the ‘in the know’ types that you hang out with won’t have heard of it, and will be very jealous that you got there first when you play it to them.)by