'Oh, so that's who Richard Morris is..." Lord Hattersley on The Daily Politics

'An influential activist' - The Guardian

'Iain Dale, without the self loathing' - Matthew Fox in The New Statesman

You are a tinker...' - Tim Farron

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Protecting the Right to Protest

Andrew Clark, the Business Editor of The Observer, had a very unpleasant experience this week when he was frogmarched off a train, handcuffed, and held by the police for three hours - at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. His 'offence' was to take pictures of the police arresting potential anti capitalist protestors in his carriage. You can read a full account here None of this seems fair or right. Not to Andrew Clark, nor indeed to the protestors - who weren't actually protesting at the time (they were going home...)

Now that we Lib Dems are in power, you would hope that the rights of protestors at least here at home will quickly be put right. After all it features in the coalition agreement, and the Queens Speech noted a bill would be introduced 'allowing members of the public to protest peacefully without fear of being criminalised.'

I worry however that things are not moving fast enough.

We have introduced the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Bill which gives more rights to protest in and around Parliament Square. Good. But it also legislates to clear the area outside Parliament Square of protestors like Brian Haw; hard to imagine a more principled and heartfelt protest than Mr Haws campaign and we should be enhancing his rights, not reducing them.

Meantime, we see CS gas or pepper spray alledgedly used on peaceful protests by UKuncut, and of course it appears the environmental movement is apparently riddled with undercover police officers - some of them dressed as clowns...

In his Jan speech, Nick Clegg trailed the coming Freedom Bill, due to be laid before parliament this month, and again mentioned the importance of strengthening our rights to protest. I applaud this. I hope the rights of citizens to peacefully protest without fear of recrimination - or even being spied on by a clown - are restored and enhanced

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