June 2005 Archives

Astonishingly. it seems that the controversial provisions of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 which impose a protest restriction zone around Parliament, and which were brought in, supposedly against the lone "peace camp" protestor Brian Haw, may not actually apply to him at all, but they will apply to all the rest of us !

This is because, in their haste to get the Act onto the statute books, "on the nod" during the undemocratic "wash-up" process, where backroom deals were made by the political parties, at the end of the last session of Parliament. This meant that there was no proper scrutiny of the sections of the Act which deal with demonstrations in the vicinity of Parliament.


Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 133 Notice of demonstrations in designated area

"(4) The notice must state-

(a) the date and time when the demonstration is to start,

(b) the place where it is to be carried on,

(c) how long it is to last,

(d) whether it is to be carried on by a person by himself or not,

(e) the name and address of the person giving the notice."

However Brian Haw's continuous daily protest has been ongoing for the last four years.. Similarly the weekly Wednesday Voices in the wilderness UK Global Women's Strike protest has being ongoing for the last two and half years.

Therefore, the argument goes, Section 133 of the Act does not apply to him, since his is an existing, ongoing protest or demonstration, which started over four years ago and the Act only deals with demonstrations with a future start date or time after 1st July 2005.

If this argument is true, then, unless someone else starts an ongoing demonstration in Parliament Square or in the rest of the Designated Area, before midnight tonight, 30 June 2005, it could be that only Brian Haw will be exempt from the need to apply in writing before any, as yet unclearly defined "demonstration" and any restrictions imposed on all the rest of us !

In the hope of inspiring a few more people to write to their Members of Parliament about the restrictions on "demonstrations" around Parliament Square, below is the text of a letter to my MP.

Use this as inspiration (but do not simply cut and paste it) when you write to your own Member of Parliament, either directly, or by using, for example, WriteToThem

A comment by "Nosemonkey" on "the tale of Princess Tony and the Ugly Face Man" has helped to crystallise Yet Another Worry about the Parliament Square Designated Area protest exclusion zone.

Instead of making the Designated Area just the small stretch of pavement across the road from the Carriage Gate entrance, where the controversial protestor Brian Haw has his "peace camp", the NuLabour Home Secretary Charles Clarke has ordered the Designated Area to include the whole of the Palace of Westminster itself (as well as, for no discernable reason, the London Eye wheel across the river Thames).

This is important because, the Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 1537 means that as of 1st July, it becomes a criminal offence to "demonstrate" without applying for prior permission from the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Since the public areas of the Palace of Westminster, such as the Lobbies , Corridors, Committee Rooms, Viewing Galleries and even the bars and restaurants, are just that, they are public area, they also fall under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 132

"7) In this section and in sections 133 to 136-

(a) "the designated area" means the area specified in an order under section 138,
(b) "public place" means any highway or any place to which at the material time the public or any section of the public has access, on payment or otherwise, as of right or by virtue of express or implied permission,"

Does this mean that if you want to exercise your traditional right to lobby your Member of Parliament, in person , at the House of Commons, which is a political act or attmpt to influmece one or more Members of Parliament i.e. a demonstration or protest, you will now have to apply for permission to do so, beforehand, not to Parliament, but to the unelected and politically appointed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir Ian Blair ?

It does not matter at all if such permmission is automatically granted, or if no unreasonable extra restriction are applied, the need to apply "at least six clear days" or in exceptional circumstances "at least 24 hours" ahead of time is intolerable. This still has a chilling effect on democracy, by discouraging people from lobbying their MPs.

What happens to the names and addresses of all of the people who do apply for permission to "demonstrate" ? How long will your name and address be retained for and what other computer databases will they end up on ?

The Designated Area should be dramatically reduced in size to just include the area of Brian Haw's "peace camp", if that is what Parliament really intended to vote for.

How much more remote and out of touch with the public can our politicians get ?

You do not have to agree with everything that Brian Haw is protesting about, in order to be outraged by the excessive Designated Area protest exclusion zone:

"Organising Opposition to New Restrictions on Protest around Parliament

Public meeting on 29 June 2005 at the Indian YMCA at 7.30pm

(Indian YMCA, 41 Fitzroy Square, London W1T 6AQ, nearest tubes: Goodge Street, Warren Street, Gt Portland St.)

The meeting will discuss practical ways (including civil disobedience) to oppose the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act which will come into force on 1 July and to prevent the eviction of peace protestor Brian Haw who can be arrested under the new legislation from 2 August.

All welcome.

Organised by Parliament Square Peace Campaign and Brian Haw Supporters
For more info on the SOCP Act see www.parliament-square.org.uk,
info@parliament-square.org.uk"

We were considering setting up an online Pledge, but it looks like Robin Grant from perfect.co.uk has beaten us to it:

"I will apply for authorisation to demonstrate in the vicinity of Parliament every day for a month from 1st August 2005 but only if 50 other responsible citizens will too."

- Robin Grant, responsible citizen

Deadline: 31st July 2005.

Thanks to Anthony, a commentor on our previous posting who points us towards the Statutory Instrument 2005 No. 1537 The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 (Designated Area) Order 2005 which describes the Designated Area.

This was signed on the 8th June and "laid before Parliament" on the 10th of June. Why has there not been any Home Office Press release ?
Were they hoping that the public would not notice ?

The Evening Standard and the BBC have published two different accounts of the alleged map which outlines the controversial Designated Area around Parliament Square

"No point in the area so specified may be more than one kilometre in a straight line from the point nearest to it in Parliament Square"

under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 section 138 The designated area

The Evening Standard's map implies that St. James's Park, which is only a few metres from the back of Downing Street is not in this alleged Designated Area, which makes a nonsense of any "security" reasons for the extention of the Designated Area so far from Parliament Square itself. However the BBC states that St. James Park is in the Designated Area.

As you can see from the Bloggerheads graphic, or from a more detailed online street map) a one kilometre zone could in theory extend to the gates of Buckingham Palace in th ewest and cover all of Waterloo station on the other side of the River Thames to the East.

The Evening Standard Map, and also the one published by the Daily Telegraph shows a zone which is no more than about 500 metres in a straight line from Parliament Square. It is unclear which side of these roads the Designated Area boundary lies on, but the boundary seems to be:

nban16.gif - Parliament Square Designated Area - source Daily Telegraph 16 June 2005

Starting in the south east corner, Lambeth Bridge on the east bank of the River Thames, westwards across Lambeth Bridge (the MI5 Security Service HQ building appears to be just outside the boundary), along Horseferry Road (thereby encompassing the new Home Office buildngs in Marsham Street), north along Strutton Street, across Victoria Street (thereby encompassing the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour Party headquarters and the New Scotland Yard Metropolitan Police HQ), skirting around St. James's Tube Station and down the side of the former Home Office buildings now sold off to property developers in Quen Anne's Gate, onto Birdcage Walk on the south side of St. James's Park, then eastwards to the corner with Horse Guards Road at the back of the Treasury, northwards past Downing Street and Horse Guards' Parade, onto The Mall, the eastwards again through Admiralty Arch, sneaking just south of Trafalgar Square to Northumberland Avenue, eastwards to the Embankment and the Hungerford foot (or railway ?) bridge, back across the River Thames, down Concert Hall Approach (excluding the South Bank Arts comples) to York Road (excluding Waterloo Station), then southwards down York Road to Lambeth Bridge again (encompassing the London Eye wheel).

Why doesn't the Home Office publish a map or a detailed description of the extent of the Designated Area and the proposed rules and regulations for public consultation ?

At the moment, it appears that wearing a T-shirt or rubber wristband or doing anything which might, in the opinion of a police constable, be considered to be a protest or demonstration, even by a single person, without prior permission from the Commisioner of the Metropolitan Police will be a criminal offence after 1st August, when, presumably, the secret Order setting up the Designated Area is meant to come into force.

The Evening Standard (West End Final edition) has a small paragraph on page 18:

"Anti-war man told to leave

Britain's most persistent anti-war demonstrator was today ordered to quit his pitch.

Protestor Brian Haw has been served with a legal notice to dismantle his peace camp opposite the House of Commons. Ministers expect him to be gone by August.

Mr Haw who has kept his 24-hour vigil since 2001, said he take his fight to the European Court of Human Rights."

Thanks to Bloggerheads for drawing this to our attention. (N.B. the different version of the article they have online).

Whilst we do not necessarily support Brian Haw in all his protests, the right to peacefully demonstrate or protest in Parliament Square and the surrounding area, is one which must never be lost.

We entirely sympathise with the NoOoOoN! people in Paris who are also showing that not everyone over there is under the commercial spell of the 2012 Olympic Games hype.

NoOoOoN_moyen.png

However it is a bit naughty of them to use pro London 2012 stickers to deface the propaganda posters on the Paris Metro !

Perhaps they should support a permanent venue for the Olympic games instead.

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