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    Megaphone Wars - The Suppression of Free Speech

    Charles Veitch

    by Charles Veitch

    I WAS RELEASED AFTER A 5 MINUTE RIDE IN THE POLICE VAN. No DNA sample nor fingerprints taken. =) Megaphone confiscated as evidence. Suppression of dissent is undesirable in society for a variety of fundamental reasons. Freedom of speech is a cardinal rule for a free society. Dissent is absolutely essential to allow all points of view to be given and considered. Censorship plays a central role in the control of speech and other forms of human expression, often by government intervention (through criminalization or other regulation). It is most commonly applied to acts which occur in public circumstances, and most formally involves suppression of ideas by criminalizing or regulating expression. Justice Holland in the High Court in 2007 stated that: "Protest is lawful; the use of a megaphone as an adjunct of lawful protest is itself lawful. The starting point is unfettered freedom to engage in so much amplified protest as is neither intimidating or harassing." HLS Group Plc v SHAC 2007 WL 919475 [2007] EWHC 522 (QB) QBD. The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act is a very good example of unscrutinised, ill considered and under-discussed legislation ... civilians with no criminal intent ... have suffered receiving a criminal offence simply because they have expressed their views within 1 kilometre of the Houses of Parliament. Baroness Williams (Lib Dem) 26/01/07 When I pass protestors every day at Downing Street, and believe me, you name it, they protest against it, I may not like what they call me, but I thank God they can. That's called freedom." Tony Blair 7/04/2002. Three years later his government introduced the SOCPA restrictions on protest. "OWING TO CHANGES IN SOCPA LEGISLATION THE UNAUTHORISED DEMONSTRATION OFFENCES CANNOT BE PROCEEDED WITH" now, no-one we have come across can explain exactly what this means, and there is no knowledge of parliamentary legislative changes to the act, although various consultations and joint committee hearings have and are still scrutinising the legislation. however, many protestors have been convinced that the police have received instruction that they can no longer prosecute under this legislation, and this case summary would seem to lend weight to that theory. in the absence of any information to the contrary, it would appear that the claim in this case summary is in itself a lie, but one based on operational instructions from high up the authoritative chain (rather than actual legislative changes as claimed). what it means to would-be protestors is that SOCPA is over, finished, powerless. if you are protesting near parliament and you are threatened with arrest, you can carry on with impunity. you will not be arrested, or if you are, the case will not be proceeded with and you will have grounds for compensation. so come on down. we once more live in a free state (ish) - ok, i know there are other far more sinister sections in the act, and then there's the coming counter-terrorism act, and there's asbos, and privatisation of public space, and regulatory investigative powers, and id cards, and cctvs, and corporate injunctions, and threats to press freedom, but hey, at least celebrate this one little moment of victory and freedom! one more anecdotal addition to this story. the other day i was talking with a high-profile socpa criminal, and they told me that they had been in court a few months ago for non-payment of fines relating to a socpa conviction. they told the judge they had absolutely no intention of paying the fines, but the judge would not listen, and chucked them out of court with a warning that they must pay within 28 days. they didn't. since then, over several months, they have heard nothing more. no bailiffs. no court summonses. no demands. nada. is this an oversight, or is it part of the same pattern? we think SOCPA IS DEAD. come and protest once more - tell your friends - spread the word - let's party!! ;