Defending our liberties

IssueNovember 2007
News by David Polden

Up at Menwith Hill the US spy base, Yorkshire Police tried to use the Public Order Act (1986) to forbid demonstrators at the annual “Keep Space for Peace” demo from walking round the base (as usual) because it was “too dangerous and would cause serious disruption to the local community”.

On 8 October, about 100 people assembled in the presence of police on horses, cycles and motorcycles, but were prevented from walking by a police cordon.

Organisers, the Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases, told North Yorkshire Police that they caused disruption to the community by blocking the road.

London march

Two weeks before it was due to take place on 8 October (the day parliament re-opened), police banned the anti-war march from Trafalgar Square to Parliament Square, using the Metropolitan Police Act (1839).

Organisers, the Stop the War Coalition were defiant. In the end it was the authorities who backed down and lifted the ban hours before the march started.

The ban had greatly increased the numbers intending to take part. In the end, on a Monday lunchtime, some 5,000 people marched down Whitehall against war and for the right to protest!


Because of the fence around Parliament Square (put up in August), the police had difficulty squeezing demonstrators in while keeping traffic moving, and there were sit-downs in the road (pictured on p5), with arrests. Later much of the fence was pushed down.

Brian Haw targeted

Nine days later, GLA-hired security guards dismantled displays attached to the resurrected fence and took down all tents except one (for authorised demonstrator Brian Haw!). They were all left in a smashed heap on the pavement.

The neighbouring Burmese peace camp was also moved on.

However, a court case this year found that Brian requires supporters at the camp to ensure that the peace camp is supervised at all times. Police restrictions allow up to 20 persons at the camp.

So where are supporters supposed to stay at night?

Menwith SOCPA

Returning to Menwith, on 10 October, Helen Johns and Sylvia Boyes were given a three-month conditional discharge for criminal trespass at Menwith Hill in April 2006, under section 128 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (2005) which makes it an offence to trespass on national security “designated sites” (13 so far), and which lays down a maximum sentence of 51 weeks and/or a fine of £5,000!

The two had been arrested for this on, suitably, 1 April 2006, the day the section came into force, when they stepped into the base.