Civil rights organisation Liberty welcomed yesterday’s Law Lords ruling in favour of anti-war protesters who police stopped from travelling to a protest at RAF Fairford.
A Liberty statement said: ‘In a landmark decision the Law Lords have determined that police may not prevent peaceful demonstrations unless a breach of the peace by protesters is imminent.
‘The Lords upheld Liberty’s arguments in the Laporte case that the police failed properly to respect the right to freedom of expression and assembly when they stopped 120 peace activists en route to an anti-war demonstration at RAF Fairford airbase.’
Alex Gask, Legal Officer for Liberty said: ‘Nothing less than our freedom of speech was at stake in this case.
‘Unmerited concerns about some future “breach of the peace” cannot justify the denial of this fundamental right.’
In March 2003, the 120 campaigners travelled to RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire by coach to protest against Britain’s attack on Iraq which had begun several days earlier.
The police stopped the coach and carried out a search which uncovered scissors, spray paint, shields and protective clothing.
‘Despite a massive police presence at the site of the demonstration, about which the police had been notified in advance, the passengers were not allowed to proceed and were forcibly detained on their coaches.
The coaches were returned to London under heavy police escort as police cited a possible ‘breach of the peace.’
‘The coaches were not allowed to stop, even to allow passengers to relieve themselves.’
• Second news story
GREEK GENERAL STRIKE
HUNDREDS of thousands of Greek workers in heavy industries, engineering, communications, ports, banks, railways, local government, hospitals, as well as teachers and civil servants, participated in yesterday’s general strike called by the GSEE (Greek TUC) and the ADEDY (public sector workers federation).
It was in protest against next year’s government budget. Tens of thousands took part in militant rallies in Athens, the port city of Piraeus, Salonica and other industrial centres.
Nearly all bank branches remained shut in the main Greek cities while not a single train moved in the Athens Metro system: bus drivers struck in the morning and evening.
The strike was absolutely solid in the communications, post office and water enterprises as well as in Piraeus where not a single ship sailed in the morning.
Most schools remained shut and many archaeological sites and museums were closed.
In Athens some 3,000 workers and students, in the main from the public sector, marched to Vouli (Greek parliament) demanding an end to privatisations and attacks on workers’ wages and pensions.
At the front of the march a large contingent of teachers marched under a huge banner declaring their opposition to the proposed government’s revision of article 16 of the Greek Constitution which would allow the establishment of private universities and privatisation of education.
A large section of the Athens march was taken by workers in the state-owned communications enterprise OTE, port workers from the Piraeus, and so-called ‘temporary’ workers all threatened with sackings and wage cuts as the Greek government is pushing through the Vouli privatisation plans.