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Novartis threaten the right to protest banners and costumes

slade | 23.10.2009 17:57 | SHAC | Animal Liberation

On Wednesday 28th Novartis are back in court trying to extend their injunction against Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty. You may think that this is just an animal rights issue, but the new terms that Novartis are seeking will set a frightening precedent that will affect everyone's right to protest.

The background is that SHAC are holding a march against animal testing in Horsham on 31st October, which will end up at Novartis' premises there. SHAC are only permitted to have one such large scale demonstration per year. The last such one was in April 2008. The theme of this years march is naturally Halloween - given the timing.

On the Tuesday just gone, at a routine hearing, Novartis and their solicitor, the now infamous Timothy Lawson-Cruttenden (well known for claiming to protect peoples rights to protest but is behind some of their most draconian terms - remember the EDO and Heathrow injunctions) sought to introduce terms that would among other things:

1. forbid protestors from wearing any sort of face covering, in particular animal costumes, skull masks and all that. It is so worded that even people covering up against the cold would be affected.

2. force protestors to obey the bylaws of Horsham, regardless of whether they are compatible with the human rights act. This would stop people using megaphones on demos or hang banners.

3. very scarily try to restrict the right of protestors to have slogans and pictures on their banners. Images of vivisected animals would be banned. Slogans about how Novartis have paid Huntingdon Life Sciences to kill and murder animals for them, or pointing out that drugs from pharmaceutical companies are among the biggest killers in hospitals (just look at the figures for "adverse drug reactions") would all be banned by this injunction. Underlying this is also an attempt to have the name of Novartis removed from banners so they can avoid criticism.

They had hoped to force it through on Tuesday but Judge Sweeney would not allow it as they had not produced any evidence to support it. He gave them until next week to produce proper reasons why they should be allowed to get it.

Lawson-Cruttenden is going so far as to say that Halloween's "dark side" is the reason for why Novartis are so worried. However, what starts here, as has been regularly seen, will steadily creep into other areas of protest. What seems innocuous here will be used again and again to muzzle other protests. This is the thin edge of the wedge and if it is allowed through then it will threaten all free speech. Imagine not being able to name companies you are protesting against; imagine if you cannot show images of the horrors of war; imagine if your human rights were simply stripped away by right wing councils. All is possible.

Will Liberty do anything - unfortunately not, as they have been happily co-opted by the Vivisection lobby, happy to meet with the front group "Victims of Animal Rights Extremism" as was reported in a government report over the summer, but will not touch grassroots protestors with a barge-pole. Its down to grassroots groups yet again to protect basic rights we all took for granted.



Display the following 7 comments

  1. Don't think this won't happen... — @
  2. Just like EDO — standing strong
  3. Song & Dance — suspicious
  4. a sizeable proportion — firing line
  5. protestors — graham
  6. TLC's MO — Lynn Sawyer
  7. I love TLC — TLC Cuddler