METROPOLITAN Police Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has submitted a document to the Labour government’s Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith, calling for new laws that would make it illegal to shout slogans, carry placards and banners, and wear headbands that could be considered by the police to ‘cause offence’.
The call to the Attorney General is yet another case of top police officers publicly demanding the government adopts policies they propose. It follows the Met chief Sir Ian Blair’s recent call to increase to 90 days the time that so-called ‘terror suspects’ can be held without charge, despite being rejected by a vote of MPs in Parliament earlier this year.
The Assistant Commissioner’s submission, publicised yesterday, makes the unsubstantiated claim that there is a ‘national and international perception’ that the police are too soft with protesters.
The document states: ‘The result has been to create an imbalance in public perception that is manifesting itself in passionate responses from elements of the community not traditionally given to publicly protesting.
‘What we are seeing in effect is a rise in the politicisation of middle England and the emergence of a significant challenge for capital city policing.’
It adds: ‘There must be a clear message that we will not allow any extremist group to display banners or make public statements that clearly cause offence within the existing law . . .
‘We also need to think more laterally around how we police public demonstrations where “offence” could be caused, while still respecting the British position around freedom of speech.’
Civil rights lawyers have exposed the fact that ‘causing offence’ is not against the law. Who is to define ‘causing offence’?
Civil liberties group, Liberty, yesterday condemned the demand for police censorship of what people can say and write on demonstrations.
However, what is more significant about the Met’s document is that it does not only repeat the daily ‘terror war’ propaganda, targeting Asian and Muslim people in Britain.
The police chiefs, like Sir Ian Blair and Tarique Ghaffur, want new draconian police powers against ‘elements of the community not traditionally given to publicly protesting’, including those joining protest demonstrations as a result of ‘a rise in the politicisation of middle England’.
People who fit this description are the hundreds of thousands of trade unionists, students, pensioners and middle class people who have demonstrated in London against the Blair government’s war against Iraq, NHS cuts, student top-up fees and pensions.
No doubt these are the people who the police are thinking of when they claim there is a ‘significant challenge for capital city policing’?!
Already, in response to demands from the police, the Labour government has banned protests outside Parliament.
Now the police, a key force within the capitalist state, are demanding that the Blair regime give them police-state powers to arrest those demonstrating in the course of the struggle to defend free education, the NHS and pensions, on the pretext that, as far as the police are concerned, their demands ‘cause offence’.
The working class movement must take the Met’s document as a stark warning that the capitalist class and its state forces are organising to destroy their basic democratic rights, like the right to free speech, a free press, the right of assembly and the right to demonstrate on the streets.
This is a real danger because the Blair-Brown government has consistently endeavoured to implement all the demands of the police, from banning protests outside Parliament to detaining ‘terror suspects’ for 90 days without charge.
So workers, youth and students, organised in trade unions and working-class political parties, must mobilise to defeat these police-state plans by getting rid of the Blair-Brown regime.
It must be replaced with a workers’ government that will defend basic democratic rights and disband the capitalist state forces, like the police.