We are all being ASBO’d

Blog by PN

ImageSimon was served the Anti Social Behaviour Order after he was convicted for public order offences defending common land at Leyton Marsh against development for Olympic baseball courts.

The ASBO prohibits him from going within 100 yards of an Olympic venue or route, obstructing any Olympic participant - including officials and spectators, going onto any private land without permission of the owner, and from disrupting the Jubilee or Olympics events. (See more: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2012/apr/17/protester-receives-olympic-asbo)

Todays hearing was for an interim ASBO for which a full legal case does not have to be heard but is based on whether the court considers it ‘just’ to prohibit activities. A date for a hearing to impose a full ASBO, which would be in place for a minimum of 2 years, will be heard on 14th June.

The prosecution asked the magistrates to consider if Simon was acting in an anti-social manner, likely to cause harassment and if so, whether an ASBO is necessary to protect others from such behaviour. While mentioning the rights of ‘others’ to enjoy an important international sporting event, he failed to mention the rights of the local community to enjoy their common land.

When asked to address the court, Simon said that he had not come to tell them whether the ASBO was just, but to ask them to look inside themselves for the answer, and take personal responsibility for their actions. He argued that if it is a case of doing what he feels is just or keeping within the law, he will follow justice and therefore continue to support the Leyton Marsh protest. The Olympic process has seen the needs and rights of the public completely overlooked and yet they are criminalised for it when they seek to uphold those rights.

Simon also argued that an ASBO escalates minor breaches of the peace into actions with serious consequences including a prison sentence. As this piece in the lawyer notes “The use of Asbos to prevent individuals engaging in offensive and valueless anti-social conduct is one thing. But their use to impose prior restraints on the genuine exercise of freedom of expression, as well as the exercise of other rights such as ordinary use of the highway or attending an event for which one has tickets, is much more questionable and goes beyond current authority.”

The magistrates instead preferred to focus on the potential for ‘disruptive’ behaviour and what is best for a theoretical ‘collective’ rather than the actual people affected by the Olympic developments, some of whom were sitting in the gallery. They agreed to the need for an ASBO and allowed the prohibitions although they did suggest that the 100 yards measurement would be rather difficult to judge and comply with.

Despite lame assurances from the court that their intention is not to prevent Simon from going about normal everyday activities and that the ‘Crown (were) proposing to be reasonable’, it is clear that the Crown will use this measure, as it has done for other protesters before, to clampdown on any potential dissent around the Olympics. Simon’s case and the injunction on other protestors at Leyton Marsh seek to send out a clear message – don’t bother or you will be next.

Topics: Repression, Olympics