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Police stop showings of antiwar film
Police have intervened across the country to prevent screenings of the new campaigning film On the Verge about the Brighton-based anti-arms trade group “Smash EDO”. Police action succeeded in preventing the film's premiere on 17 March. Over the following days, there were reports of police and council intimidation of cafes and community centres in Southampton, Bristol, Bath and Hereford that had planned to show the film.
The film bills itself as “the story of one of the most persistent and imaginative campaigns to emerge out of the UK's anti-war movement and direct action scene”. It was due to be premiered at the independent Duke of York cinema in Brighton, but last minute intervention by the council over the film's certification caused the cinema to pull the screening. The film has not been certified by the British Board of Film Classification, and technically this means commercial cinemas cannot screen it without council permission. However, many independent cinemas screen uncertified films. A Duke of York manager said that the council's decision was “unprecedented”, in her experience.
Campaigners, together with the SchMovies collective, later arranged a screening at a Brighton pub, where over 140 people watched the film over the course of two showings. Police denials exposed At first, Sussex Police denied any involvement with the film's cancellation, with Chief Inspector Lawrence Taylor telling local paper The Argus: “We would never get involved with the certification of a film-it is not something we do. It was as much a surprise to us as anyone else.” The next day, with council officers insisting they had acted on police instructions, the force backtracked and issued a statement saying that: “a junior officer, who is not based in the city, alerted the city council to the showing and they advised the cinema of its responsibilities.” The police telephoned the cinema to warn them to bar their doors as the campaign was “extremely violent” - needless to say at the end of the evening the cinema was still standing.
Steve Bishop from the SchMovies collective told PN: “At first we thought this was perhaps Sussex Police up to their usual tricks, after all our film doesn't show them in a very good light. But since then it's become clear that they don't want it shown anywhere in the country.” He added: “But there's no way we're going to stop touring this film, we're not going to give in to crude tricks of intimidation.”
The Art House, a small community run cafe and gallery in Southampton, had a screening scheduled for 20 March. However, the day before, they received a visit from a licensing officer and police sergeant Stewart Chandler. They were told that film should not be shown as it was not certificated. Jani Franck of the Art House told PN: “We were not aware that we needed a certificate to show a film without charging. The government's own White Paper states that licensing laws were never meant to cover smaller venues, and this law is currently under review.”
Jani Franck went on: “Later we got a call from sergeant Chandler. He wanted assurance that Smash EDO would not be turning up at The Art House at all-apparently he was very concerned about 'potential disorder in and around the premises' although when asked to clarify what he meant, he got rather vague, asking if the Art House was aware of the group's reputation as 'left wing anarchists'.
“It became obvious that the lack of certification for the film, was not the issue. I grew up in South Africa and this felt very familiar. This has nothing to do with protecting the public-this is nothing but censorship.” The film screening went ahead after a swift change of venue. The attempted suppression of On the Verge marks another chapter in Smash EDO's struggle to defend the right to protest.
Please check Schnews for details of showings of On the Verge: http://www.schnews.org.uk/schmovies/index–on–the–verge.htm