Boris Johnson trying to ban protest & free press in Trafalgar & Parliament Squares

(30 Posts)
threeleftfeet Tue 31-Jan-12 01:46:58

Got till the end of Feb to make objections against this (if you want to) ...

A notice was published yesterday detailing Boris Johnson's plans to get a byelaw passed for Trafalgar square and Parliament Square which will effectively outlaw protests and ban media reporting in the squares, other than those sanctioned in advance by the Mayor.

It would make it an offence to do the following (among other things) without written permission in advance:

- make or give any speech or public address

- take pictures or film on behalf of a business or organisation --- (does he mean to suppress the media as well as protesters with this one?)

- make audio recordings or transmissions (even if not affiliated to an organisation)

- “organise or take part in any assembly, display, performance, representation, parade, procession, review or theatrical event”

- display any sign / notice / "pictorial or printed matter"

- erect or keep erected any tent or similar structure

- intend to use any kind of "sleeping equipment" there

(.. and a whole load of other stuff about not feeding the birds / jumping in fountains etc.)

It also makes it an offence to fail to comply with a reasonable direction given by "an authorised person" to leave the square.

Seeing as just about every protest in London ends up in Trafalgar Square and/or Parliament Square, isn't this a direct attack on democracy and the freedom of the press?

It was published today for "consultation" at www.london.gov.uk/consultation/confirmation-byelaws-trafalgar-square-and-parliament-square-garden

And apparently mentioned in the notices in the Evening Standard, hidden in the jobs section: sturdyblog.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/thou-shalt-not-demonstrate/

The "consultation" is open until February 29th for objections (details via the links above).

ttosca Tue 31-Jan-12 02:50:47

Disgusting...

Tories doing what Tories do best...

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 31-Jan-12 07:49:51

Trafalgar and Parliament Squares are both high traffic centres which, if closed off, cause major disruption. So it makes sense to have events which are going to congregate there agreed in advance and minimise the impact on ordinary Londoners. Parliament Square also has security issues to consider. Knee-jerk assumptions that this will mean all protests are 'banned' are premature.

threeleftfeet Tue 31-Jan-12 08:48:39

What's knee-jerk is the byelaw!

It's obviously a response to recent protests, and anticipates the Olympics. And no, he's not trying to ban all protests, but this byelaw is massively draconian.

It also basically makes being homeless in either square an offence.

Of course it makes sense for large scale protests to be arranged in advance, but they are generally already.

Why make an offence of making any kind of recording without permission? That's an attack on the free press.

threeleftfeet Tue 31-Jan-12 08:52:47

This is from the UK Government website direct.gov.uk

Right to protest

The right to peaceful protest is a vital part of democracy, and it has a long, distinguished history in the UK. Here’s some basic information about protests, as well as a few other ways in which you can make your voice heard.

Peaceful protests

Taking part in a demonstration, rally or protest is a high-profile way to take a stand on issues important to you.

Protests can make a real difference – leading to changes in governmental policies and laws. Peaceful protests allow people to come together and stand up for what they believe in, and can be a very effective way of promoting change.

The Human Rights Act

The Human Rights Act protects freedom of expression and freedom of assembly – these form the basis for your right to gather with others and protest.

The act forbids governments and other public bodies (including police) from violating these rights. However, it does allow for some limitations on these rights in order to prevent unrest, violence and crime, and for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.

The police work to balance the right to protest with the right of other people to go about their lives safely and freely.

Human rights

Organising a protest
Tell the police if you are organising a protest
The key message from police and local authorities to protesters is always ‘let us know’.

Protests are most likely to avoid confrontation with local residents or workers, or the involvement of police, if organisers:

- notify the police in advance of their plans for the protest
- advise them of expected numbers
- apply for a permit if one is required or requested

If you are organising a march, you are legally required to notify the police six days in advance, or as soon as it is reasonably practical to do so.

If you are organising a protest rally that will not involve a march, you are not obliged to notify the police, but you may still want to let them know.

This courtesy allows local authorities to prepare for the gathering, to divert traffic if necessary to ensure the safety of the protesters, and to alert local residents to the disruption they’re likely to face."

threeleftfeet Tue 31-Jan-12 08:54:46

CogitoErgoSometimes this law would cover all forms of protest pretty much, not just those which block off traffic.

Also any kind of performance (e.g. busking).

meditrina Tue 31-Jan-12 10:26:27

There are already bye-laws which require permission for protests in central London, and there are authorised events all the time. And it's a good thing as it prevents groups hostile to each other holding events at the same time.

Very little change here, really.

As the consultation period ran from December until 22 January, there isn't that much scope now anyhow. And plenty of other sites in London too.

CogitoErgoSometimes Tue 31-Jan-12 10:28:35

The mayor is under pressure from London businesses and residents to keep London moving, clean and in good order. Things like the St Pauls protest and the peace campaigner that set up a permanent shanty in Parliament Square have shown that existing laws don't meet requirements. Violent protests like the 'student' demos caused massive damage when they didn't abide by agreed routes. London's a very large space, protests can't be allowed a total free rein, and I support what he's trying to do

ttosca Tue 31-Jan-12 17:58:46

Protest in Parliament Square have long been a tradition on the UK, going on for decades.

This is a knew-jerk response for the Olympics.

There are already many, many laws which cover protest and disruption. In fact, you can be arrested for doing anything which can 'cause distress, alarm, or harassment' to the public. There are already laws covering obstruction of the highways.

I'm not surprised that you support 'what he's trying to do', Cogito. He's trying to save the UK from any embarrassing public protests during the Olympics.

The laws are already too strict with regards to protest. If the government had its own way, it would outlaw them altogether. Starting from the 1970s, all governments have added more and more laws to ban and stifle protests from occurring.

I had to break it to you, but 'disruption' as part of a protest is an inherent democratic right. That's what protest is supposed to be doing. A protest in a secluded corner of a park, with zero visibility and zero disruption is no protest at all.

Ryoko Tue 31-Jan-12 18:41:19

If you can't protest there where the fuck can you?

I live in London we have no large central place where people can gather for anything, thats why new years fireworks take place on the river, their really isn't anywhere for people to go in the capital other then Trafalgar Square and Parliament Square and lets face it if you can't let your voice be heard outside the seat of power whats the bloody point?.

They will probably tell people to protest in Hyde Park (the only other space) out of sight and earshot of anyone it's aimed at.

This country is a joke, yet we still criticise others.

EdithWeston Tue 31-Jan-12 21:30:28

You can protest there; with permission (these bylaws actually make little/no difference to current practice). You can see it happening at these two sites nearly every weekend.

I think you'd be pretty devoid of either imagination or knowledge of
London to be unable to come up with alternatives, assuming of course that you wish to be exclusively London-centric.

Disruption isn't a right.

ttosca Tue 31-Jan-12 22:03:54

Disruption isn't a right.

Actually, I'm afraid it is. No protest in central London can be carried out with some degree of disruption. If we start with the premise that any disruption is forbidden, then it follows that any protest is forbidden - except, of course, in a far corner of a park somewhere, where will probably never been seen nor heard except by a minority of park-goers.

You have to decide whether the democratic right to protest is more important, or whether causing no disruption at all is important. You can't have both.

EdithWeston Tue 31-Jan-12 22:10:40

It's not a right.

It's usually tolerated as a concomitant, but it's not a right.

edam Tue 31-Jan-12 22:13:38

Good grief. I used to protest in Trafalgar Square. Back in the bad old days of apartheid - when Boris's mates though it was oh-so-funny to sing 'Hang Nelson Mandela'.

Even Maggie, with her husband's business connections to the apartheid regime, didn't try to ban the protests. Yet Boris will? Rank hypocrite - it's OK for him to make hundreds of thousands of pounds a year from journalism, but he'll make it illegal for mere members of the public to make audio recordings. That's anyone with a smartphone arrested - or having their phone confiscated.

London traffic and business has survived a thousand years of public protest, I can't see how it's suddenly necessary to suppress democracy now - exactly when our government is pretending it supports the protesters in Arab countries.

carernotasaint Tue 31-Jan-12 22:47:39

Well said edam totally agree.

Ryoko Thu 02-Feb-12 18:02:24

I think the decision on who gets to protest or not should never be given to a individual person, especially one who is a high profile member of a political party (one that just so happens to be in power right now).

It's a conflict of interest is it not?.

edam Thu 02-Feb-12 22:15:38

darn right, ryoko. (And thanks, carer.)

Rasidan Sat 04-Feb-12 19:57:28

Well, it's not like there aren't enough places left to protest...

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 05-Feb-12 09:57:01

"It's a conflict of interest is it not?."

The Mayor of London is elected by democratic majority. He may have a high level role in a political party but he also has a mandate to make decisions on behalf of the people who elected him. If the people don't like the decisions he makes, they'll elect someone else. So no, it's not necessarily a conflict of interest.

edam Sun 05-Feb-12 11:17:24

like where, Rasiden? Where can a large number of people gather in Central London? Not allowed to protest near Parliament - heaven forbid the MPs should actually be disturbed by mere voters. I'm sure the authorities would be jolly pleased if there was a mass demo in, I dunno, Saffron Walden, far away from the centre of power and the media...

meditrina Sun 05-Feb-12 12:42:53

You can't know London that well, edam.

The obvious place is Whitehall, and you can see protesters there regularly. Level of media coverage depends on the cause (and how photogenic). The City is popular (?) at the moment, and anything on a major London bridge or on/near Oxford Circus tends to attract attention. Those are the sites that spring to mind on only 2 minutes thought. I'm sure it would be easy to add to that list.

Relation of marches and some fixed demos in London has been around since the days of the GLC.

edam Sun 05-Feb-12 12:44:54

Yeah, right, I only lived there for 18 years and still commute...

meditrina Sun 05-Feb-12 12:47:28

Then I am very surprised indeed that you think there are only two places where high profile protest is possible.

edam Sun 05-Feb-12 13:23:53

Have you looked up the restrictions on protest near parliament?

meditrina Sun 05-Feb-12 16:39:29

Yes precisely!

And it's unconnected to the bye-laws which are the subject of this thread. As a Londoner, you'll know how little these new bylaws actually change

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