Article: Policing of protests

Tough on the causes of peace
The Times, Thunderer, 8 February 2006
by Heather Brooke

Forget all this namby-pamby peaceful protesting. The only way to grab a politician’s ear is to do so with force. That’s the loud and clear message from the authorities. The police record clearly shows they take a softly-softly approach towards religious extremists who threaten violence, but a sledgehammer approach when faced with peaceful protesters.

The Islamic protests last weekend in London have led to questions in Parliament about why the police failed to arrest those holding placards advocating mass murder. Meanwhile, the police have shown no delay in arresting peaceful protesters. According to Hansard, police have arrested 28 people protesting peacefully for taking part in “unauthorised demonstrations” in the “designated area” around Parliament since August 2005. The Met arrested 57 peaceful protesters outside an arms trade exhibition in September 2005. These protesters went so far as to dance in the street; a few climbed on top of a standing train.

You can see the mistake made by these deluded activists. They clung to the belief that the Government rewards those who play by the rules with a listening ear. But the Serious Organised Crime Act makes it an offence to protest peacefully outside Parliament. The Government sees no difference between dancing in the street and inciting beheading.

Peaceful protests are the steam valves for a democratic society, so by criminalising all protests, no matter how participants behave, the temptation is to say: “What the hell, let’s go for it!”

And this is exactly what has come to pass. Just look at Fathers4Justice. Hundreds of law-abiding families and lobbyists tried for years to reform the failing family justice system. Then suddenly a gang of thugs invades Parliament, throws condoms at the Prime Minister and posts letters of excrement to the head of the Family Court and before you know it – bam! The family courts are reformed.

This is a dangerous message for any government to send out to its people. For it is a drawn-out process to achieve change peacefully. Those treading the path must feel their efforts may be rewarded. Instead, the vast powers of the police to arrest are influenced by politics and political correctness. On one hand they are tough on the peaceful; on the other they are soft on the thugs who march under the banner of Islam.

If you are interested in protesting against the Westminster no protest zone, you might like to sign this pledge.

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3 Responses to “Article: Policing of protests”

  1. John A Blackley says:

    It is rare that I come upon an article in The Times where I can
    point and say, “Exactly!”

    This was such an article and articulates exactly my frustration
    with our confused, spineless politicians – who seem consumed by
    their obsession that we never give offence to our Muslim
    citizens but are equally confused as to how, exactly, to
    protect the rights, persons and feelings of non-Muslims.

    Thank you.

    John A Blackley

  2. Graeme Cook says:

    I have submitted a letter to The Times in response to this article:

    — BEGINS —
    “The family courts are reformed,” declares Heather Brooke (Comment 8th Feb). She is woefully misinformed: far from caving in to fathers’ rights protestors, this government and the family law industry have cynically instituted a succession of mock inquiries and sham reforms, including the few minor legislative changes contained in the Children and Adoption Bill currently completing its passage through Parliament, which do nothing to address the fundamental problems with the system and the institutional prejudice against men which pervades it.

    Until the principle of equality in post-separation parenting is enshrined in legislation and backed up with sweeping reforms of the bodies which implement the law, this country will continue to see the further rapid growth of an alienated and disenfranchised underclass of separated fathers, and a generation of children damaged – senselessly – by the deprivation of the love and full engagement of a perfectly good parent.

    As an investigative journalist, Brooke would be advised to check her facts properly; as a campaigner for open government, she might also consider devoting some of her energies to probing the operation of our Orwellian family courts.
    — ENDS–

    For reasons of economy, my letter couldn’t address all my concerns about the factual accuracy of your piece:

    1) you assert that ‘a gang of thugs invaded Parliament’ to throw condoms. What happened is that, in May 2004, two respectable, besuited F4J members got access to the Commons gallery as guests: Guy Harrison, the multi-millionaire businessman who last year also staged a protest on the roof of Westminster Hall, and Ron Davis, who had engaged the Prime Minister earlier that year on a radio phone-in programme, and received a promise from Tony Blair to look further into the issues and write back to him (he did so, on 24th March 2004, but was predictably non-committal with regard to any reform).

    You can download a recording of this conversation at: I highly recommend that you listen to it. He hardly sounds like a mindless thug, does he? Astonishingly composed, in fact, given what he has been through at the hands of the family courts (and knowing the circumstances of his story, I think it is a miracle that he is still standing, let alone in possession of any functioning mental faculties).

    2) In the same sentence (implying that Guy Harrison and Ron Davis might be responsible) you also assert that letters of excrement were sent to the head of the Family Court. I would be interested to know your source for this claim.

    I look forward to reading your response to my comments.

    Graeme Cook

  3. Jeff Botterill says:

    I would also appreciate an answer to response #2 from Heather Brooke.

    Why has she meekly followed the government line and called these two highly principled fathers “thugs” belonging to a “gang”?

    There has been no discernible change in the operation of the ‘secret’ family courts, or any of worthwhile note in the pipeline. How can the comment “bam! The family courts are reformed” be at all justified?

    Regards and thanks
    Jeff Botterill

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