Peaceful protest

It is very concerning to see incidents of peaceful protesters being arrested.

This is opposite to everything that the late Queen stood for – and presided over – for 70 years.

We have a right to peaceful protest in this country. We cannot pretend that dissent does not exist. There will never be 100% agreement on everything. It is ridiculous to try to pretend that there is 100% approval of the monarchy. Our strength is that we tolerate dissent.

We should wear peaceful protests as a badge of honour. It is sign of a healthy democracy.

The young lad in Edinburgh should have been protected from the mob – not allowed to be yanked about by members of the crowd, and not arrested for some trumped-up charge.

There seems to have been some lack of preparation here. In all the plans about proclamations etc, had no one thought to prepare for peaceful protests?

As Alistair Carmichael tweeted:

 

The greatest way we can honour Her Majesty the Queen is to preserve and celebrate dissent – and the peaceful protest which goes with it – in this country.

There needs to be urgent recalibration of the police response to peaceful protest in the light of the current period of mourning and ceremony.

 

* Paul Walter is a Liberal Democrat activist. He is currently taking a break from his role as one of the Liberal Democrat Voice team. He blogs at Liberal Burblings.

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18 Comments

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Sep '22 - 1:01pm

    I agree with you Paul, but we need to look at the context and deatails.

    Some police are influenced by new levels of power innate in the govts draconian recent legislation.

    Others are using the 86 Public order act, disturbing the peace style reasoning.

    The Met, have issued a very good statement in which it is in support of peaceful protest and in fact encourages officers to be aware of the rights of protesting demonstrators.

    One or two were arrested for outrageous reasons. One man shouted in Oxford, was arrested because it is reckoned, “noise” is prohibited in the new legislative arrangements! Clearly absurd.

    Two were arrested for very inapropriate incidents and I am of a mind to understand why.

    One shouted gratuitous insults against Prince Andrew as he walked behind the procession.

    Another had a sign with F…. off monarchy!

    In general we ought to have protest. But in deatail we ought to examine cases.

  • Lorenzo: If the context in which it is reasonable to arrest someone at a protest is “holding a sign deemed insufficiently respectful of those they are protesting against” or “shouting insults at the person they’re protesting against”, then that is in fact a prohibition on protest “in general”.

  • So a couple of disrespectful young men behaved like idiots and so incurred the ire of other members of the public and had their collars felt by the police.

    Yes, the police have done themselves no favours by their inconsistent arrests, but given the security level, everyone associated with security will be nervous.

    So don’t see a reason for all the OTT fuss.

    If these idiots had turned up to a football match knowingly wearing the wrong team’s shirt and sitting in the wrong part of the stand, I suspect many who are “out raged” would say they only had themselves to blame for the agro they would receive.
    Personally, now is the time to observe and see just how much the UK is still a monarchy and we are still “subjects”, even if the actual queen/king is just a figurehead.

  • I agree with Paul: freedom to peacefully protest is a cornerstone of liberal values. Likewise freedom of speech.

    I’m strongly supportive of the status quo; a successful constitutional monarchy, and have no desire for a republic in spite of the theoretical shortcomings of a monarchy. The set up has served us well. And yes people will disagree, and would like to aire their disagreement, however distastefully and even at seemingly highly inappropriate moments. It’s their choice.

    My hope is that people’s support of freedom of expression and the right to peaceful protest is consistent here. So freedom to protest outside abortion providers (something some Lib Dems have been attempting to stiffle), freedom to express unpopular opinions about sexuality, gender and race topics, and freedom to criticise, mock and ridicule any religion or religious figure.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Sep '22 - 4:56pm

    cim

    Yes or no.

    I am showing rather than judging. I gave deatil. You give a view of that which does indeed mean you are correct, that is a general restircted level of protest.

    But, on any issue, is it good to have placards with sw eare words? I merely ask, on any scale, I can see this might be debateable.

    Similarly, are we allowd to shout insults?

    I am very liberal on this. But the left who now defend these protests, liberals or socialists, are in support of sexist calling out to women, alluding to a woman’s figure, being called “hate speech.”

    I favour balance and happily, judgement. I did not support adding to what is hate speech, very keenly, and do not support the Tory bill on protest.

    As ever, I am in the centre ground. Shame the centre left stray from there so often.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 13th Sep '22 - 5:24pm

    cim

    Sorry for typos, keyboard issues!

  • @ Lorenzo. Thanks for giving me a laugh, Lorenzo. We needed a bit of cheering up.

    It seems your fingers have the same trouble with your keyboard as H.M. has with his pen.

  • Of coarse people peacefully protesting about an unelected person becoming head of state shouldn’t be arrested. What amazes me is that almost everyone defending the protesters rights have prefaced their comments with words to the effect of: “I don’t agree with what they’re saying but …”!
    Some people are also suggesting this is not the time to protest against the monarchy. Surely, so long as the protest is focused on the transfer of power rather than mourning the departed, then it is a very appropriate time to protest.

  • We need to look at the real society we are living in. The police service do not have enough officers to deal with serious situations. It will be interesting to see how many successful prosecutions there are. This is of course to a large extent dependent on whether the person arrested has enough resources to obtain the legal expertise he – and all the cases I have seen have been he’s – needs. This has also been caused by the continuing cuts in our legal services.

  • @Lorenzo I think there are two related issues

    1) There is or should be a very big gap between “good idea” and “illegal” in terms of protests. Are protests with swearing and insults a good idea? Depends on the context and purpose of the protest. That’s a very different question to whether they should actually be illegal. The MEPs involved in this stunt with mild expletives https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-48857811 were not, I think, doing anything particularly useful … but I don’t think anyone suggested it was arrest-worthy at the time.

    2) We should also be considering “good idea” in terms of state overreaction: they arrested and charged a couple of people for what would be entirely ignored if it wasn’t a protest versus the state … and now Edinburgh is seeing larger “blank placard” protests in response, and is likely to see rather more if it ever reaches court, whereas if they’d just let the original protestors hold their placards in peace, it probably wouldn’t have been noticed outside of that street.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 14th Sep '22 - 1:19pm

    David

    Yes, switching from chromebook to windows and back, depending on what is to hand, rather like HM, from biro to fountain pen!

    Always like to put a smile on the face though!

  • Mick Taylor 14th Sep '22 - 1:36pm

    I know I am a pedant, Russell, but I think you meant of course. It may be the case that some people find coarse language offensive, but in a Liberal Democracy, there is no right not to be offended. Free speech – as opposed to hate speech – is precious and that means that some people’s views will be offensive to others. [Most Tory policy and views are offensive to me]. Too many in our party and beyond seem to think that if they are offended by someone’s views then those views shouldn’t be expressed. That’s not free speech as I understand it.

  • Denis Loretto 14th Sep '22 - 5:05pm

    I have mixed views about this. Freedom of speech has always had limitations – the usual example is shouting fire in a crowded theatre. In the present situation making insulting remarks in the middle of large crowds with emotions in the other direction running high has some degree of analogy with this. I see no harm in the police moving on someone doing this but not treating them roughly and certainly not charging them with any crime.

  • @Mick Taylor

    I totally agree with you regarding nobody having the right not to be offended. If you find speech offensive, then tough luck. Core and classic liberal principle.

    Your reference to hate speech needs elaboration though. The cry of “hate speech” is increasingly being used by those wanting the right not to be offended. Salman Rushdie’s writing gets denounced as hate speech. Saying the “wrong” thing in the tortuous gender debate is labelled hate speech. Some humour and comedy attracts protests in the name of hate speech. The problem is there is no definition of hate speech. My own opinion is that the things reasonable people think is hate speech are already covered by established free speech restrictions on clear and direct incitement to crimes. But the lack of an accepted and objective definition means the claim of hate speech gets used (and abused) as a way of closing down speech that certain people subjectively don’t like

  • Unlike physical categories, social ones like offensiveness are not amenable to strict definition. That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist; rather, it means that their definitions arise, in unique circumstances, from negotiations between the individuals involved. No individual can unilaterally decree an offence based on personal sentiments; but likewise no individual can unilaterally *deny* an offence based on personal indifference. When offence is claimed or perceived, it’s a matter to be talked out until, if possible, some reasonable accommodations, suitable to both parties, can be discovered. In such discussions, it’s usually apparent who is refusing to be accommodating (though of course it can be both, and that seems to be increasingly common). But when both parties are seeking accommodation, it’s usually not too hard to find a way through.

  • Mick Taylor 15th Sep '22 - 9:12am

    James Pugh. Quite right. Certain hate speech like race and homophobia are already defined in law. The current hot spot is around trans rights where two increasingly hostile groups loudly accuse each other of hate speech and where even within our own party some people are seeking to discipline or expel others because of their expressed views. Free speech is indeed threatened by the Tory Government, though sadly they are not alone in that as intolerance is rising even in the Lib Dems. Perhaps members should follow the advice of Jo Grimond and read J S Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ annually. As Jo said ‘it purges and refreshes’

  • @David-1

    Since you acknowledge that offence is entirely subjective, do you therefore agree that it cannot be a police or legal matter?

    Regarding coming to accomodation when offence is perceived, if free speech (with its well established limitations in terms of libel and direct incitement to a crime) is a human right, why should there be accomodation? Sounds like some sort of coerced conformity to the aggrieved party’s worldview

    @Mick Taylor

    Hate speech in UK is either determined by incitement to a crime, or when hateful intent and motivation is proved. Because such intent and motivation is extremely rarely provable, in practice prosecutions under hate speech laws (which are not just related to race and sexual orientation) are almost always because of clear and direct incitement.

    I agree many people need to read and re-read Mill. However, sadly even on here, I have seen posters completely distort Mill’s thesis, equating harm to hurt feelings, thus a grounds to limit speech in those circumstances (i.e all the time). It’s terrifying how many liberals have given up on liberalism.

  • Peter Hirst 18th Sep '22 - 3:45pm

    As long as nothing is said or stated that could be construed as incitement to act against, then citizens should be free to say whatever they want, however unpopular it is. Without evidence of what is actually being said, written or implied it is up to the police to make a judgement. However, any action must be immediately and automatically subject to legal scrutiny so it does not infringe the above.

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