the Disillusioned kid: You Are Free To Do What We Tell You
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Wednesday, October 05, 2005

You Are Free To Do What We Tell You

According to the Scotsman more than 600 people were detained under the Terrorism Act during last week's Labour Party Conference in Brighton (and this at the "friendliest" conference in Europe!). It seems to me that there are two possible conclusions which can be drawn from this: (1) There are an awful lot of people who not only want to kill Tony Blair, but are actually prepared to back up their convictions with action; (2) The Act is being used against people who don't quite confrom to the generally accepted definition of a terrorist. Obviously I wouldn't want to jump to conclusions, but the fact that "anti-Iraq war protesters, anti-Blairite OAPs and conference delegates" (including the infamously man-handled heckler Walter Wolfgang) were among those detained suggests the latter may be closer to the truth.

Unfortunately, as Dan notes, the use of anti-terrorism powers in this manner isn't without precedent. In 2003 protesters against the Dsei arms fair were also the targets of searches under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act. In fact there are a whole host of examples of such legislative creep, as George Monbiot explained in the Grauniad yesterday:
All politicians who seek to justify repressive legislation claim that they are responding to an unprecedented threat to public order. And all politicians who cite such a threat draft measures in response which can just as easily be used against democratic protest. No act has been passed over the past 20 years with the aim of preventing antisocial behaviour, disorderly conduct, trespass, harassment and terrorism that has not also been deployed to criminalise a peaceful public engagement in politics.
Examples include the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, the Protection from Harrrasment Act 1997 and the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 1995. As if that isn't enough the Vagrancy Act 1824 and the Justices of the Peace Act 1361 have also been used against people who make the mistake of dissenting from the status quo. Is anyone naive enough to think that the proposed counter terrorism bill will be any different?

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