rikkiindymedia(At)gmail[dot]com (rikki) | 22.01.2012 18:55 | London
today and tomorrow are respectively the deadlines for getting your comments in to the two consultations aiming to criminalise protest camps in london.
based on the new PASRA law which covers parliament square, the department of culture and the GLA are both running consultations before attempting to bring in draconian new bye-laws that will criminalise protest camps in trafalgar square and in the royal parks. westminster has already finished its own consultation covering much of the borough especially areas around government buildings and corporations and any green patches.
the new law and proposed bye-laws criminalise any attempt to sleep overnight at a protest site, giving police and council authorities the powers to seize tents and any other apparatus deemed to be designed to aid an overnight stay. there are powers of forfeiture, and criminal sanctions including fines and even exclusion orders. the new rules will also outlaw megaphones and other amplifying equipment, again allowing seizure.
despite the draconian style of the new legislation, the authorities describe their sanctions, without irony, not to be an attack on the right to protest, but as just an innoccent attempt to prevent nuisance. however, george young was more direct on thursday in a commons response recorded by hansard in which he stated Finally, I would say that "we have also restored the historic right to protest, as long as those protesting go home at the end of the day." (http://www.theyworkforyou.com/debates/?id=2012-01-19a.883.0&s=protest+parliament#g889.6)
today and tomorrow are the closing dates for the two currently open consultations. the westminster consultation specifically referred to the 'occupation' movement and described the new rules as a pre-emptive move to prevent any 'occupy' sites from establishing in the area. these are the beginning of GWOC, the global war on camping, which is a direct response to recent trends in peaceful and effective protest.
responding to public consultations CAN help. huge negative responses swayed the government over SOCPA, and were also part of the campaign that saw off westminster council's attempts last year to criminalise feeding the homeless - yes, really!
the consultations can be found at http://www.culture.gov.uk/consultations/8710.aspx for the royal parks (ending tomorrow, monday the 23rd jan), and the GLA one at http://www.london.gov.uk/consultation/draft-byelaws-trafalgar-square-and-parliament-square-garden (ending today, sunday the 22nd) for trafalgar square.
for more info on the background to the legislation and the battle for the right to protest in parliament square, see http://london.indymedia.org/articles/11456
Original article on IMC London: http://london.indymedia.org/articles/11516