12 January A New Threat to the Freedom of Assembly and

George@dicegeorge.com dicegeorge at hotmail.com
Sun Jan 6 23:12:19 GMT 2008

Extremely useful briefing for those who want to respond to government
consultation around protest and parliament square,

Please circulate if you can and respond to the consultation.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: [parliamentsquare] A New Threat to the Freedom of Assembly and
the Right to Protest
Date: Sat, 5 Jan 2008 19:26:49 +0000
From: Emma Sangster <emma at drifting.demon.co.uk
<mailto:emma at drifting.demon.co.uk> >
Reply-To: parliamentsquare at yahoogroups.com
<mailto:parliamentsquare at yahoogroups.com>
To: parliamentsquare at yahoogroups.com
<mailto:parliamentsquare at yahoogroups.com>

This email, the www.repeal-socpa.info <http://www.repeal-socpa.info>
website and an analysis of the
consultation document has been put together by a group of SOCPA
activists to encourage people to respond to the consultation and promote
awareness about the new threat to freedom of assembly that is contained
in the government's consultation.

Please circulate if you can and respond to the consultation.

best wishes

[A] A New Threat to the Freedom of Assembly and the Right to Protest
[B] Responding to the Home Office consultation document - key points
[C] We Own the Streets: Freedom of Assembly Day of Action, 12 January


This October the Government published a public consultation document
("Managing Protest Around Parliament") on Sections 132 - 138 of the
Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA), which ban unauthorised
protest within 1km of Parliament.

It is clear that the Government are looking to repeal SOCPA because of
the negative public perception of restrictions on free speech around
Parliament, and that this is in large part, a result of the sustained
campaigning of activists who have refused to give up a basic right to
freedom of assembly without political intervention by the police.

Nonetheless, there are already ominous signs that the consultation will
be more spin than substance. Indeed, the first two questions raised in
the consultation document concern the "harmonisation of powers to manage
marches and assemblies" throughout the UK. Such "harmonisation" could
mean granting the police new powers to ban public assemblies anywhere.

The danger is that the Government will be able to score media points for
repealing unnecessary and draconian legislation, whilst in reality
further tightening the screws on protest and dissent.

Protest and dissent are the lifeblood of a democratic society. And it is
through protest itself that freedoms of expression and assembly have
been fought for and established. Please take this important opportunity
to show the strength of opposition to SOCPA and that restrictions on
protest around Parliament or anywhere else are completely unacceptable.

TAKE ACTION - by 17th January

* It is vital that anyone who cares about the right to protest in this
country responds to the Government consultation by the 17th January
deadline. You can do this via email or post - see [B] below.

* Take part in the Freedom of Assembly Day of Action on 12 January (see
[C] below).

For more info on all of the above see www.repeal-socpa.info
<http://www.repeal-socpa.info> .


A PDF file of the Home Office consultation document is available here:
http://tinyurl.com/2ap5l6 <http://tinyurl.com/2ap5l6.> .
<http://tinyurl.com/2ap5l6 <http://tinyurl.com/2ap5l6.> .> Responses should
be emailed to
ProtestaroundParliament at homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
<mailto:ProtestaroundParliament at homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk>
<mailto:ProtestaroundParliament%40homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk> or can be sent
in by post.

The three key points it raises are:

1. Whether police powers to control marches and assemblies across the UK
should be 'harmonised'.

As there are less powers in place to control assemblies (except around
Parliament and other sites designated under SOCPA), this 'harmonisation'
is likely to mean that legislation would be put in place to control
assemblies in the same way that marches are controlled (under the Public
Order Act 1986). As few as two people can constitute an assembly. Such
'harmonisation' could lead to the police having the power to ban,
restrict or control assemblies anywhere in the UK or for people to have
to get police authorisation for simply handing out leaflets in your high
street. Over recent years, new police powers and interpretations of
public order legislation have led to an increase in the police trying to
control dissent and free speech. There should be no new provisions aimed
at restricting or controlling free assembly and free speech put in

2. Whether special provisions are needed for static demonstrations and
marches around Parliament.

The police have many powers to control such events already - provisions
under the Public Order Act, the Terrorism Act, anti social behaviour
legislation, bye-laws and others, as well as Sessional Orders which
grant police special powers to ensure Parliament is not disrupted while
it is in session. Parliament is the focus of protest and there should be
no barriers to peaceful dissent directed towards those in power. The
restrictions on protest under SOCPA have proved unworkable and
discriminatory, they criminalise peaceful protestors and allow the
police to make political judgements on which protests need to be
controlled and they have a 'chilling effect' on free speech - when the
public perceives that freedom to protest has been restricted, people are
less likely to try and participate even if the law does say that no
demonstration may be banned outright.

3. Whether there are any special considerations to be taken into account
around Parliament.

The history of how SOCPA came into being shows that it was primarily
drafted in order to remove Brian Haw from his 24 hour peace vigil in
Parliament Square. It could be said that issues such as security, access
to Parliament and 'equal access to the right to protest' were only given
weight in order to justify the draconian new law. SOCPA does not address
security issues or allow 'equal access to protest' and there is other
legislation in place to deal with demonstrations that may restrict MPs'
access to Parliament.

The most bare-bones response to the consultation process would therefore

(a) for Sections 132 - 138 of SOCPA to be repealed
(b) for there to be no increase in police powers to control marches and
assemblies (and so, in particular, no "harmonisation upwards")
(c) for there to be no new "special provisions" for static
demonstrations and marches around Parliament.

For a more detailed analysis see the consultation briefing document on
www.repeal-socpa.info <http://www.repeal-socpa.info> .


In response to continued police repression and the Government's
consultation document 'Managing Protest around Parliament' (see [A] and
[B] above) Saturday 12 January has been called as a nationwide day of
action to defend freedom of assembly (see http://tinyurl.com/yrk2kn
<http://tinyurl.com/yrk2kn <http://tinyurl.com/yrk2kn> >).

If you are organising an action then please email
freeassembly at lists.riseup.net <mailto:freeassembly at lists.riseup.net>
so that your event can be added into the
presswork and info at repeal-socpa.info <mailto:info at repeal-socpa.info>
to be added to the events listing.

A London event is already being organised: assemble 1pm, Saturday 12th
January at the top of Trafalgar Square.

No virus found in this incoming message.
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05/01/2008 11:46

Emma Sangster


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