The one-man protest that is Brian Haw, the only demonstrator allowed to air his views inside Parliament Square, may find himself surrounded soon. Instead of police circling him, however, it may well be other placard-waving peaceniks.
Newly-minted PM Gordon Brown has called for a change in laws squelching the public’s right to protest within the grounds immediately surrounding Parliament. Currently, demonstrating in this area without prior police permission is prohibited by the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005. Brown’s statement brings up some serious questions: Will all spontaneous and peaceful demonstrations be allowed, or will there still be qualifying criteria? What kinds of limits will there be to ensure the safety of others? Does this mean there is a Not-So-Serious-and-Badly-Organised Crime Act as well? What will you do about the smell that is sure to result if dozens more decide to follow Haw’s lead and camp out 24 hours a day? How many policemen does it take to drag away and handcuff people with signs that say “If it’s Brown, flush it down?”
Defending the current laws, the Home Office declared that they were needed for security reasons and suggested that bombs could be hidden amongst the clutter of protest signs. HO, we hate to tell you this, but a bomb could be strapped to a tourist’s chest or hidden in an MP’s lunch sack or even in David Millband’s hair. They could be anywhere, really. So let them protest, we say. Gordon’s all for it, Glastonbury’s over and the weather is shite. What else is there to do?
Photo of Brian Haw courtesy of Tommy Forbes