‘It couldn’t happen here.’
‘This is not Nazi Germany.’
‘It’s completely over the top to use the ‘F’ word.’
‘Fascism? Come on! That’s hyperbole!’
As regular readers will know, we’ve been strongly opposed to the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill and watched in horror as the Lords’ amendments were disregarded. Indeed, Braverman then proceeded to introduce yet more draconian powers to suppress the right to peaceful protest with the Public Order Bill, rammed through on Tuesday 2 May.
It seems evident that the Met and the City of London Police exercised/exploited and overreached those powers with considerable relish on Saturday at the Coronation. They pre-emptively arrested the six organisers of the Republican campaign, and confiscated all their placards and equipment, along with three volunteer members of Westminster Council’s night watch safety team who were handing out rape alarms to women on Friday night and Saturday morning.
So far so grim. But it gets a lot worse.
Republic’s organisers had been talking to the police for four months, and were under the impression that the combination of planning, transparency and the campaign’s record of non-violent opposition to the monarchy ensured that their event, with speakers, would go off without a hitch. It appears that the police reneged on the plan, arresting them while refusing to give a reason (itself illegal). Republic have described it as an ambush.
This ‘ambush’ sends shockwaves of anxiety through all of us who have ever been involved in the organisation of a march or demo. If everything can seem to be agreed and then reversed at the 11th hour, how will this do anything but suppress the right to protest (clearly the intention!) and undermine trust in the police?
The police don’t even have to stoop to unlawful arrests. Earlier this year I attempted to organise a peaceful march and rally in Exeter. I organised one back in March 2018. We had stewards, a traffic management plan, permission from the council and highways and the full and friendly cooperation of the police. The event was large, good-natured (despite our righteous anger at Brexit and the liars who flogged it to the public!) and, as a consequence, highly successful and incident-free.
This time, I repeated the process. I contacted the police and the council. I informed them of our plans. I required their blessing in order to secure public liability insurance, like any responsible, upstanding organiser. No response from the police, despite filling in the correct form. The council merely said they had passed all the details to highways who would be in touch. I heard nothing.
I chased. Nothing. I chased again. Nothing. You cannot, of course, actually speak to anyone these days!
In the end we gave up as time had run out. We just held the rally. It was a shame. People wanted to march. They’re getting quite angry. They need an outlet. It would still have been an impeccably behaved affair as that’s who we are … law-abiding citizens and patriots, whose manners, values and forbearance are being sorely abused by both the main parties in their obsession with the Brexity right … though that is another subject.
The day before the rally, I got a call from my local bobby (never seen on the beat, needless to say). Apparently, I was planning a march in my town (which is not Exeter!). No, I explained, I was not. Policeman insists that I am, that he’s been told I am. I assure him that I am not and that, in fact, thanks to the lack of response from the police, I am not organising a march at all. So do I have permission for my rally? Well, yes, I do, thank you very much …
No apology. Nice bit of passive aggression, in effect. And job done, as far as they were concerned. No pro-EU march!
The incident with the volunteer safety guys is even worse. The police claimed they had evidence that the rape alarms were going to be used during the coronation to frighten the horses. Leave aside for a moment that said horses are trained within an inch of their lives to not so much as flick an ear at any scary or loud noise, and are accompanied by bands, drums etc. Where did the police get their intel which ‘justified’ their ‘pre-crime’ arrest? Could it be none other than the Daily Heil?
This is really serious. We have a government that is out of control when it comes to lying, corruption, cronyism, sexual misconduct, voter suppression and breach of the parliamentary code, and is hell-bent on bypassing parliament using statutory instruments to force through its authoritarian agenda.
When you are ‘ruled’ by kleptocrats you need to be able to protest or it’s game over! Look at Russia, Belarus, North Korea etc. This is no joke!
Trust in the police is already very low. A discussion with a group of women the other day revealed that not one of them would agree to go anywhere with a policeman on their own. It is now official: the Met is institutionally racist, misogynistic and homophobic. They aren’t the only ones … or even the worst.
Behind this sits the worst Conservative government ever and a media that collaborates in the gaslighting and division. Couple this with a complicit police force given extraordinarily dangerous powers and a far-right agenda that seeks to make enemies and criminals of all who dissent and, truly, we are talking fascism.
And if that’s alarming, then good, because those bloody alarm bells need to be ringing loud enough to galvanise us in to doing something. Resist! Protest! VOTE!
Oh…and littering is an actual offence, but seemingly perfectly OK if you are a loyal, royalist patriot: