Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Brian Haw

The government has won its appeal against the judgement that its law requiring police approval for protest cannot be applied to Brian Haw and it is to be expected that he will shortly be asked to leave.

I think George Monbiot's concern over the effects of this new law is overstated. Clearly the right to protest cannot be an absolute right. If people are running around airbases they are a danger to themselves and others. If a protest goes on for five years then it has created a shanty town which defies attempts to properly order an important public environment. The savagery of much animal rights protest is a genuine challenge to the rule of law in this country and deserves no legal defence.

Monbiot appears to be surrendering to the classic trap of thinking too highly of the importance of laws and not nearly highly enough of the importance of society's values. Try to set up a perfect legal defence of the right to protest and you will only succeed in defending the indefensible. So long as every Briton holds the right to peaceful and timely protest dear no democratic government will be able to prevent them exercising that right. For this reason threats to freedom of speech which sap the public's will to express themselves are far more dangerous than new powers for the police. That is why censorship of South Park and the Danish cartoons controversy worry me so much.

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