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UK Police use anti-terror law to disperse protest

Jason N. Parkinson | 02.08.2005 00:22 | SOCPA | Anti-militarism | Repression | Terror War | London

Five peace protestors were arrested today in a peaceful vigil outside the Houses of Parliament, as the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill (SOCPB) was enforced for the first time in London.

Stop The War coalition called a demonstration outside parliament to oppose SOCPB at 2pm on Monday August 1, which gathered around 100 demonstrators with black gags over their mouths.

A daunting scene of a modern London surrounded the protestors. Armed police patrolled parliament, police photographic teams catalogued every protestor, and surveillance helicopters hovered overhead, all a direct increase in security following the July 7 bombings in London.

Protestors chanted: “that’s not what democracy looks like,” pointing towards the Houses of Parliament, which is currently under summer recess. This summer holiday for politicians has been criticised by UK citizens, which is felt to be untimely considering the current security status across Britain.

Within an hour of the demonstration the police issued a leaflet stating the demonstration was illegal under SOCPB and those who did not remove themselves would be arrested.

The leaflet was greeted with mixed messages. Although the law came into force on August 1, it was believed the law would not be enforced until August 6.

SOCPB, which is designed to tackle terrorism and organised crime, states that anyone organising or participating in an unauthorised demonstration within 1km of parliament is liable to arrest, facing up to 51 weeks in prison or a £2,500 fine.

The demonstration at Parliament Square was designed to highlight the intrusion of civil liberties and highlight how the laws to tackle terrorism are now being used against peaceful protestors.

Within twenty minutes of the SOCPB leaflet being issued, the police moved in and apprehended a Palestinian speaker who controlled an open-mic megaphone.

One other man and three women were arrested, including two of supporters of the Parliament Square permanent peace protestor Brian Haw, who recently won a court case overthrowing the SOCPB law designed to remove his protest.

Other protestors chased the arresting police officers, demanding to be arrested, stating that they too were braking the law.

“Don’t just arrest the Palestinian man,” said one British woman: “I was protesting too. Arrest me.”

The demonstration was halted quickly and the crowd dispersed with no further arrests.

A Scotland Yard spokesperson said he was unsure as to whether the SOCPB was in place from August 1, stating only the Home Office would have that information.

He added five people had been arrested under section 132 of that law.

Jason N. Parkinson
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