SB | 08.01.2008 20:13 | SOCPA
CROSS-PARTY PARLIAMENTARIANS HIGHLIGHT NEW THREAT TO FREEDOM TO PROTEST
10am, Wednesday 9 January 2008, outside Downing Street, London
Liberal Democrat Peer, Baroness Miller of Chilthorne Domer, Labour MP John McDonnell, Conservative MP Daniel Kawczynski and Plaid MP Adam Price will be part of a group assembling at Downing Street on Wednesday morning to hand in a petition as a response to the Government's consultation on the controversial law banning unauthorised protest near Parliament . Baroness Miller recently introduced a private members bill to repeal the law prohibiting protest . Mr Kawczynski was recently threatened with arrest for holding a small placard outside Downing Street without police permission.
The group will also include Maya Evans (tbc), Walter Wolfgang, Brian Haw, Mark Wallinger, Mark Thomas and Jenny Jones, Green Party member on the Greater London Authority. Maya Evans was the first person to be convicted under the law when she read out names of British soldiers killed in Iraq . Walter Wolfgang was charged under the Terrorism Act after being removed from the Labour Party conference in 2005 for saying ‘Nonsense” out loud during the Home Secretary’s speech. Comedian Mark Thomas has been staging “Mass Lone Protests” in the SOCPA area. 
The gathering wish to highlight the ominous signs that the Government is planning to further restrict the rights of demonstrators across the UK. The consultation looks set to recommend increasing police powers to control, or even to ban, public assemblies, under the guise of “harmonising” the laws regarding static demonstrations in line those governing public marches. Police permission could be required (6 days in advance) for groups of as few as 2 people to assemble or hold any placard anywhere in the country. 
Some of the group will read the names of protestors arrested under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which bans any demonstration that has not received prior authorisation by the police. The legislation was originally introduced to remove Brian Haw's continuous peace protest from Parliament Square but many peaceful protestors have been criminalised as a result .
Baroness Miller, the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for Home Affairs, said: “'Harmonisation' of the marching/assembly laws would lead to stricter rules for demonstrations in London and across England and Wales. This is unacceptable and should not be considered in the context of a review designed to relax the rules governing demonstrations around Parliament.” 
Maya Evans said: “The danger is that the Government will be able to score media points for repealing unnecessary and draconian legislation, whilst in reality further tightening the screws on protest and dissent around the UK.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
1. The Home Office consultation, 'Managing Protest Around Parliament', is available from:
2. The Public Demonstrations (Repeals) Bill [HL 12] was introduced in November 2006 by Baroness Miller, http://tinyurl.com/2s6avm
3. See ‘MPs condemn arrest of woman who spoke out’, Daily Mail, 8 December 2005, http://tinyurl.com/zoep7. Maya Evans was the winner of the Human Rights Award 2007 For her campaigning work and commitment to the cause of liberty. For her courage in standing up for our fundamental rights to peaceful protest and freedom of speech, http://tinyurl.com/3eylcg
4. Heckler returns to hero's welcome, The Guardian, September 29, 2005, http://tinyurl.com/8rhfb. Walter Wolfgang is now a member of the Labour Party's National Executive Committee.
5. For an analysis of the Government's consultation document see:
6. For more on the history of SOCPA, see:
7. The full text of Baroness Miller's response to the Government consultation on 'Managing Protest around Parliament' can be read at: