Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Friday, 4 July 2008

Police State Britain: No2ID Cards protesters arrested in Edinburgh!!

I'm afraid I have been a little behind the curve with this, but I have just come across these stories published by the ever-excellent SpyBlog over the past few days about the arrests of 9 No2ID protesters in Edinburgh on Monday:

Nine NO2ID arrests at Home Office Minister Meg Hillier's secretive ID Cards centralised State database propaganda meeting in Edinburgh

Support the NO2ID Nine who were arrested in Edinburgh

Some MSM reporting of the incident is here: BBC, Scotsman (later report here), The Herald, Edinburgh Evening News and the Daily Record.

From a No2ID discussion forum comes this plea for help from Geraint Bevan, the NO2ID co-ordinator in Scotland and Glasgow local group organiser, one of those arrested on Monday:

"If anyone would like to contribute to legal costs, cheques made payable to "Glasgow NO2ID", along with an indication of the intended purpose, would be gratefully received at 3e Grovepark Gardens, Glasgow G20 7JB. Any surplus after the cases have all concluded would be sent to London to be added to the legal defence fund (or to start an activists defence fund, whatever)."

Here is Geraint Bevan's account of what happened on Monday, taken from the same discussion forum:

Nine of us have been charged for breach of the peace. Eight for causing "alarm and distress" for walking into the hotel wearing white suits and masks (despite two of them actually wearing unmasked East German border guard uniforms), and me for "alarm and disturbance" for infiltrating the meeting, putting my hand up to speak, taking the microphone when offered, speaking, and refusing to leave immediately while speaking after the minister requested that I do so.

Of the eight, one is a young lady who walked in after everyone else with a young child. The idea that she might have alarmed anyone is ridiculous. Another of the protesters was 17, on his first protest, doing only what I had told him - I'm very annoyed that he has been charged and had to spend a day in the cells at St Leonards.

There was a bit of heavy handed policing (they were responding to a 999 call and didn't know what they were facing) but it calmed down instantly the moment one of them realised they were being filmed by professionals and warned his colleagues. All protesters were entirely peaceful at all times.

I must emphasise that once the police realised that there actually wasn't any danger, they were all entirely courteous and professional throughout for the rest of the day. We still have to decide whether to file a complaint against the officer who ripped a mask of the face of a protester. He seemed a decent and friendly chap when I spoke to him later.

The police have told us that after speaking to groups of people inside, no one has any complaints about our conduct inside, there is no suggestion that we were anything other than peaceful. It is the "alarm" that has led to the charges "masked people in today's climate ...". Given that we had negotiated with the hotel manager to film an interview with STV inside (possibly after the 999 call had been made - that is still to be established), and were on our way out when the police arrived, I am surprised at the charges.

However, STV caught almost everything (except my contribution to the consultation) on camera. They followed the costumed protesters in, filmed them trying to negotiate entry, caught me being thrown out, an interview with me, our attempted departure, followed by the arrival of the police. Apparently we have made the main news programme, but couldn't see it ourselves.

We have all been bailed to appear before Edinburgh Sheriff's court on 24 July. I fully intend to use the occasion to highlight again how the Home Office are refusing to engage in debate with the public.

For clarification, I was not trying to engage in constructive debate inside the consultation. It would have taken hours to counter the nonsense that Meg Hillier was speaking and would have served little purpose. Instead, I concentrated on the fact that we and the general public had been excluded from the process.

There were a couple of amusing aspects. When I approached the registration desk just after the event started, I was able to see all the remaining badges and list of names - it was easy to select one. I entered the ID consultation with a newly-acquired false identity.

On entering the room, in which a video was playing, I slowly walked around to find the assigned seat for that person. Officials to whom I had been speaking outside appeared not to recognise me. No one challenged my entry as I took a seat. Meanwhile, officials who tackled the costumed protesters that tried to follow five minutes later asked the group if Dr Bevan was among them. So, they were looking out for me, but couldn't even spot me walking in late after I had been talking to them earlier. And these people think they are capable of controlling people's identities. Astonishing.
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- a fuller report by Geraint Bevan about the shortcomings of and dangers inherent in the government's policy is here.

What all this amounts to is that the right of peaceful protest is now under very serious threat in this country. This is not new, unfortunately, as this video-compilation reminds us of various shocking mainly real-life occurrences over the past few years under this Labour government. The techniques of intimidation and smear outlined there are exactly those the Home Office used this past Monday in Edinburgh:

This is what totalitarian governments try to do. They try and manipulate reporting of protests against their policies to imply they are:
- violent, when they are plainly peaceful;
- the product of deluded minds.

They also become extremely secretive and guarded in how their policies are explained to the public with little serious effort being made to justify their proposals, except by using 'what if' scare tactics. The realistic gain in 'security' from successive erosions of liberty and free speech is always exaggerated and if challenged is glossed over (i.e. brushed aside).

Unfortunately many people, watching a news bulletin soon after coming home tired from a day's hard work, will rationalise this by assuming the protesters were violent and/or unhinged, just as the government wants them to believe. They may also think that the State's power will only be used against other people, those who 'deserve' it - but this could happen to anyone, and increasingly is happening to patently ordinary people who have the temerity to speak truth to power. Be warned - no-one will remain unaffected by this cancer growing in our country.

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