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Death of free speech in Blair's Britain

Keith Parkins | 13.12.2005 16:26 | Analysis | Repression | Social Struggles | London | World

Free speech has died in Tony Blair's Britain.

'Everyone has the right of freedom of opinion and expression; this includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information through any media and regardless of frontiers.' -- Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

'I just think it's a shame that you cannot voice your freedom of speech. It sends out a message that you will arrested for remembering the dead.' -- Maya Evans

When neo-Labour came to power, there was all kinds of promises on human rights, ethical foreign policy, the environment, social justice.

Far from delivering, Blair has gone in the opposite direction.

Under the guise of an 'ethical' foreign policy, the late Robin Cook exploited every loophole he could find to export Hawk ground attack aircraft to Indonesia for use in the brutal suppression and occupation of East Timor.

Yes, we have had the Human Rights Act, which only gave us what we already had under the European Convention on Human Rights, a sleight of hand if ever there was one. In addition we have seen ever more Draconian legislation which is designed to suppress dissent.

One of the first cases to be tried under the new Human Rights Act was that of David Shayler, a former MI5 officer, who blew the whistle on the abuses that were taking place in the intelligence agencies. Shayler was gagged and not even able to speak in his own defence, so much for the right to a fair hearing.

As Annie Machon, herself a former MI5 officer, writes in Spies, Lies and Whistleblowers, MI5 was more interested in chasing dissidents than terrorists.

Both Jack Straw and Robin Cook denied there were any abuses taking place. In the same way that Jack Straw is now trying to claim no knowledge of CIA flights being used for torture, in the same way he has repeatedly lied on Iraq.

We used to have arrestable, serious arrestable and non-arrestable offences. All this has now changed with all offences being arrestable. A situation that is open to abuse.

It is now illegal to mount a protest within1km of Parliament, unless that is you have permission.

As one odious Member of Parliament said on the BBC Radio 4 Any Questions, he did not want to have to make his way through protesters on his way to the Commons. [Any Questions Friday 9 December 2005]

Maya Evans was arrested and charged for standing beside the Cenotaph outside Downing Street and reading out the names of the British squaddies killed in Iraq. It took two van loads of police – 12 constables, two sergeants, to affect her arrest. Her 'crime' was to mount a solitary protest within the Parliamentary exclusion zone.

Maya Evans was charged under section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. It is now a serious crime to read out the names of the 97 squaddies killed in Blair's illegal war on Iraq within earshot of Blair himself.

Maya Evans was the first person to be charged for breaching the Parliamentary exclusion zone on free speech. She received a conditional discharge and was ordered to pay £100 in costs.

Recently released from prison for non-payment of a fine, anti-war protester Milan Rai was also present. The CPS have not as yet decided whether to charge him or not. [see SchNEWS 524]

The Parliamentary exclusion zone was brought in to deal with Brian Haw, who for the last four and a half years has mounted a solitary vigil outside Parliament against the illegal war with Iraq. Only the Parliamentary legal draughtsmen cocked it up, and the one person the legislation was intended to catch, it didn't, as the legislation is not retrospective, it only applies to protest once the law came into affect.

On Friday, Brian Haw was subjected to a dawn raid, ironically on the eve of International Human Rights Day. He was hauled off to Charing Cross police station. The police were forced to release him. Once back at his pitch, he read out the names that Maya Evans would have read out had she not been arrested and charged three days previous.

Cindy Sheehan, a Californian mother of a US soldier killed in Iraq, has led the campaign in the US against the illegal war with Iraq. She has set up a peace camp in Texas known as Camp Casey. Two days after the illegal arrest of Brian Haw she visited his little vigil. Soon a small crowd of friends, onlookers and well-wishers gathered. Was this an illegal protest within the Parliamentary exclusion zone?

If I agree to meet up with a few friends in central London and the most convenient place is outside Parliament, will I and my friends be arrested?

Mark Barrett and a few friends did just that, and they were arrested. Every Sunday they meet within the Parliamentary exclusion zone and hold a tea party, the People of the Commons Picnickers. Mark Barrett and 20 other picnickers were arrested and charged under Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. They are due to appear in Court next month.

Our roads are public highways. They are for use by the public for going about their lawful business, be they motorists, cyclists, pedestrians or protesters.

The police have recently tried to declare Critical Mass cycle rides to be unlawful protest. Cycling is to be criminalised. It seems you now need permission to cycle along a public highway with your friends and associates.

John Catt was arrested in Brighton in September under the Terrorism Act 2000 for wearing an 'offensive' t-shirt. The t-shirt merely highlights the illegal war with Iraq.

For more on 'offensive' t-shirts, see the Mark Thomas Comedy Show available on DVD from Undercurrents.

Milan Rai was arrested, charged, found guilty and fined for mounting a protest outside the Foreign Office last November against the illegal war with Iraq. He refused to pay the fine and was sentenced to 28 days in prison for non-payment. He served 14 days and is now back out.

For those of us who were in universities in the 1960s, it was a time of heady protest. But not any more it seems.

The self-styled George Fox six, mounted a demo at Lancaster University against an arms recruitment fair. Not the done thing apparently, and they were charged with aggravated trespass.

Walter Wolfgang was bundled out of the Labour Party Conference by neo-Labour heavies for daring to shout 'rubbish' during a speech by Jack 'boot' Straw on Iraq. There was then an attempt to arrest him using anti-terrorism legislation, section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, when he tried to re-enter the conference. Walter Wolfgang fled Nazi Germany as a teenager.

Anti-terrorism legislation was used during the summer to arrest G8 protesters in Scotland.

Protesters opposed to the introduction of ID Cards were on their way to a meeting of EU Justice Ministers in September. They were arrested for a 'possible breach of the peace', which was then changed to 'conspiracy to cause criminal damage', even though no one had committed any criminal act.

Asbos were introduced to deal in the main with juvenile thugs who plague run-down estates, Harassment Orders to deal with stalking. Both have been used to suppress dissent.

An opportunity was lost at the inaugural meeting of Asbo Concern earlier this year, that instead of discussing the abuse of Asbos to suppress dissent, they focused on the serving of Asbos on juvenile thugs.

Andrew Lloyd, chief executive of the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, has threatened Rushmoor councillor Peter Sandy with referral to the Standards Board for daring to criticise council officials for their piss-poor performance.

One of the cases Peter Sandy has been dealing with is that of Chris Chelsea.

Chris Chelsea, a disabled vulnerable adult, was told by the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, he had to sign an ABC (a precursor or alternative to an Asbo), else he would not be placed on the housing register. An ABC, like an Asbo, is an instrument to deal with anti-social behaviour. Unlike an Asbo, an ABC is voluntary, but once signed, you grant the Council the right to monitor you, and if you fail to comply with what has been agreed, you get taken to Court. Chris Chelsea is not engaging in anti-social behaviour.

Chris Chelsea lives in a house in a serious state of disrepair, he has been without heating since the winter began. When he sought help from the Council to force the Rachman landlord to carry out repair, the council advised the landlord how to legally evict him. He is still waiting for repairs to be carried out.

Prior to becoming a councillor, Peter Sandy was threatened by Pavilion Housing Association with both an Asbo and eviction for daring to publicly criticise their piss-poor performance. Peter Sandy was more than vindicated when the Audit Commission published a damning report on the piss-poor performance of Pavilion.

EDO in Brighton, is a participant in the illegal war with Iraq. Lawful protesters have been threatened with Asbos and Harassment Orders. [see SchNEWS 521]

Keith Parkins was served an Harassment Order for the alleged heinous crime of 'looking in a garden'. Such was the seriousness of the alleged offence, that it took two officers to call round and visit Keith Parkins to serve the Order. No investigations were mounted by the police into the false allegations made by the complainant, a security guard employed within a shopping centre owned by property developer KPI.

At the time the Order was served, Keith Parkins did not even know where the security guard lived. A security guard who works for property developers KPI who are trying to trash Farnborough town centre. A development to which Keith Parkins and others have objected. Ten days before the Harassment Order was served the security guard had followed Keith Parkins around the town centre, accosted him in a shop and offered to take him outside and kick his head in for 'being a troublemaker'. The incident was reported to the police, but they refused to take any action, refused to interview witnesses.

Recently, the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor has threatened to serve an Asbo on Keith Parkins for having the audacity to object to plans by KPI to trash the town. This was discussed at a meeting of the full council, where he was compared with a juvenile thug by one councillor and accused of being a serial objector by another. The leader of the council said if it was left to him, he'd have him in court as soon as possible.

What has caused the councillors so much distress, is that Keith Parkins and other have convinced the Secretary of State to hold a Public Inquiry into the trashing of the town centre. 'Our scheme', as the councillors referred to it in their debate. Thus causing the scheme to be held up, and hopefully thrown out.

Keith Parkins


Hide the following 5 comments

art for arts sake

13.12.2005 17:06

Saturday 17th an extra ordinary art performance artist Mark McGowan is to challenge the government and police in the Westminster protest ban by walking backwards inside the entire exclusion zone wearing a tee shirt saying THIS IS NOT A PROTEST, and whispering the words 'sssh this is not a protest sssh this not a protest sssh', to passers-by.

Chunky Mark
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Thank you, Keith, for this post ...

13.12.2005 18:46

Thank you, Keith, for compiling and communicating in this one post so much information which will be of great use to UK Indymedia readers, worldwide.

Sean M. Madden (
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- Homepage:

Minor correction

14.12.2005 11:13

The George Fox 6 were not protesting an arms recruitment conference (although Lancaster Green @ction did that for many years on the trot, getting BAe Systems removed from the George Fox building through die-ins, noise protests, leafletting, infiltration of the recruitment seminars, posters announcing the events were cancelled, letter-writing etc), but 'momentarily disrupted' a corporate venturing conference. This conference was held to explore how corporations could better exploit University research, and people were there from BAe, DuPont, Shell etc etc. The keynote speech by Lord Sainsbury was interrupted by banner holding protestors, who spoke to the crowd. For more info go to


Lord Chancellor says 'no disorder' wanted around Parliament...

14.12.2005 15:57

Article in The grauniad Dec 14th..,,1666914,00.html
No threat to free speech, says lord chancellor

Julian Glover
Wednesday December 14, 2005
The Guardian


Hmm, reminds me of the late 'great' Kenny Everett character who only wanted
nice things on TV (dressed in bowler and suit, but with frilly nickers on underneath).

In this case perhaps, Wig and Gown with nasty plod uniform underneath....


Nick Griffin

17.10.2006 06:56

Whether you agree with his sentiments or not, the show trial and pending retrial of Nick Griffin and Mark Collet on "race hate" charges are a barometer of how far we have all gone down the road towards being poolitically gagged.

Ray Millard