A recent damn-fool law has made it illegal to protest anywhere near Parliament without official police permission, and comedian Mark Thomas is organising to highlight the danger and stupidity of having this law in a democracy.
Please note that taking part in this is 100% LEGAL, and the whole purpose of the stunt is to overload the system by dozens of people all asking for permission to protest all at the same time.
The law: Under section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 [PDF] it is an offence to organise or take part in a demonstration in a public place within the “designated area” (up to 1 km around parliament) if authorisation has not been given by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner.Participants may be subject to a fine of up to £1000 and “organizers” face up to a year in jail. Tsk! Our How stupid is that? As if our jails aren't bursting at the seams as it is without locking up perfectly reasonable people trying to make a democratic point to a la-la-la-can't hear-you Government.
DESIGNATED AREA:Dozens of people have been arrested for not complying with the law even when they are taking part in “Lone Demonstrations” - i.e. if they are one person with a placard.
Many people see this legislation as an assault on our civil liberties and human rights. It’s not always practical to plan a week in advance what government activities you may or may not disagree with. Sometimes a spontaneous response is called for. And surely the most appropriate place to demonstrate against the government’s actions is within the newly “Designated Area”, at the very core of this country’s democratic foundation.
And why is New Labour so concerned about peaceful protestors anyway?If you apply for permission 6 days in advance for a lone protest (ie 1 person) they cannot refuse permission, so in order to highlight the ridiculousness of having to ask for police permission to hold a peaceful demonstration, Mark Thomas is organising a mass lone demonstration evening.Idea numero duo from Setting the World to Rights:
A young colleague of ours recently went for a walk in central Oxford, England – almost literally in the town square. She was not, initially, intending to apply Sharansky's town square test but that's how it turned out. Whether Britain passed or not is still in doubt. Judge for yourselves. Here is her account, which she has adapted from three posts on her personal blog:
First Post, July 21st:
I was in town today and bought an Israeli flag — about five feet long. While I was walking to the bus, I decided to wear it as a cape (mostly to show my support, partly to see if I'd get any reactions). My head was a good couple of inches higher than usual, and whenever I noticed it in a reflection on a window, I smiled broadly.It seems to me that wandering around the "designated area" with an Israeli flag would be an interesting test. I cannot see for the life of me how wearing a flag would count as a protest but it might be very interesting to find out. In fact if I were to be up in the big smoke any time soon I'd probably do it myself. And if anyone has failed to get their permit on August 24th for the mass lone demonstration evening then wearing a flag when you show up on August 31st ought to get you around the requirement to have a permit. It doesn't have to be an Israeli flag of course. I think an Israeli flag would be a good one but you could wear an English St George flag, a Union Jack, US flag, a US state flag (e.g. Texas), a Kurdish flag or indeed the flag of any other group that you wish to regioster support for. How about an Essex flag to stand up for all those unfortunate Essex girls mocked from one end of the country to the other? or a Kentish flag to stand up for their Chavish neighbours?