For the freedom to protest

IssueOctober 2005
Feature by PN staff

Our rights and civil liberties face renewed attack.

Once again, the government has rolled out a set of proposals in a new Bill - and this time they've determined that the best way to prevent radicalisation is, as Liberty commented, to - effectively - reintroduce internment and to make "loose talk" a criminal offence.

New powers which would enable detention without charge for up to three months and a new and particularly vague offence of "glorifying terrorism" are on the cards.

No bliss in ignorance

Freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and freedom of assembly should be encouraged within our society - even when we may abhor the odious opinions expressed by, for example, the far right, or fundamentalists of any religious persuasion. Better to see and be able to challenge such views than force them underground and let them fester, pretending they don't exist

Censorship, bans, additional police powers, further undermining of the right of habeas corpus and the forcible transfer of decision-making from the judiciary to the executive - these are progressive erosions. And such draconian moves will certainly not make "evil ideologies" go away.
Their arrogance - our complacency
Having entered the 21st century it seems as though so many of the principles and rights historically fought for - many now enshrined in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms - are being easily eroded by a government which evidently feels it can wilfully afford to ignore its critics, and by a population not convinced of the urgency to stand up and fight back.   

Commenting on why Britian did not revolt in the 19th Century, A N Wilson wrote in The Victorians, "it is open to question whether an enthusiasm for democracy has ever counted for much in Britain, if by that is meant such things as a Bill of Rights, a democratically chosen judiciary or an elected head of state".  

The need to develop such an "enthusiasm" may now be greater than ever.

Under attack

Whether facing violence and repression when protesting on the streets about our diverse concerns, or being harassed because of our race or beliefs - this government has done more to undermine civil liberties and destabilise community relations than has been witnessed for decades. 

Generating fear of "others", abandoning the poor in a sea of consumerism, and attempting to silence dissent, all make for a potentially explosive cocktail.

Making the links

This issue of Peace News gives some space to looking at sustaining long-term campaigning in the face of such adversity, making links between our concerns, and to developing collective resistance to the barrage of repressive legislation aimed at curtailing protest and the systematic removal of our rights. And that's why PN is supporting the Freedom to Protest conference. See p6-7 for details.

Topics: Civil Liberties