Blair's Britain 2005 - where peaceful protest can
Published: 10 December 2005
Arrested over demonstration at arms fair
The cases of Pennie Quinton and Kevin Gillan are
due before the House of Lords next month as civil rights campaigners attempt to
show that anti-terrorism laws to stop and search are being used unlawfully. Mr
Gillan, 28, a postgraduate student from Sheffield, and Ms Quinton, 34, a
freelance photo-journalist, were among about 140 people arrested under the
Terrorism Act 2000 at an arms fair at the Excel Centre in east London in
Lawyers for Liberty argued that the "draconian"
powers were being used in a way that was never intended by Parliament and that
they had unlawfully deterred members of the public from demonstrating
peacefully. The Court of Appeal gave the police the benefit of the
Convicted over anti-corporate stunt
The self-styled George Fox Six burst into a lecture
theatre at Lancaster University in September last year to protest at a corporate
conference. They picked a conference attended by executives from BAE Systems,
DuPont, GlaxoSmithKline and Shell to highlight what they believed were malign
relationships between academic research and business.
In response to the protest, their own university
insisted on pressing charges for aggravated trespass.
In October the six - two undergraduates, two
postgraduates, a former student and a student from an affiliated college - were
found guilty at Lancaster magistrates' court. A district judge gave each a
conditional discharge and ordered them to pay £300 costs.
Detained for throwing a tea party
It started as a joke for Mark Barrett, a tour
guide, and a few other protesters. Angered at the planned exclusion zone for
unauthorised demonstrations around Parliament Square, he went to aprotest in
He said: "There were various people there with
placards. I said, 'Let's go and throw tea into the Thames as they did at the
Boston Tea Party.' We had a bit of a laugh. Now we have a tea party protest
Thus was born the People of the Commons
Picknickers, angered by Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police
Mr Barrett, 36, and 20 other activists were
arrested. He is due in court next month. "The law is about the attempt to
marginalise people's points of view," he said. "It is anti-democratic and an
abuse of power."
Apprehended for 'offensive' T-shirt
John Catt, an 80-year-old peace campaigner, was
stopped by police officers as a terrorist suspect in Brighton in September - for
wearing a T-shirt with anti-Blair and Bush slogans.
Mr Catt, who served in the RAF during the Second
World War, was stopped, searched by police and made to sign a form confirming he
had been interviewed under the 2000 Terrorism Act.
The official record of the encounter confirms that
the "purpose" of the search was "terrorism" and the "grounds for intervention"
were "carrying plackard and T-shirt with anti-Blair info" (sic).
Mr Catt was offered a caution by police, but
refused and plans to plead not guilty at a trial due to start in January. He had
travelled into Brighton from his home in Withdean, on the outskirts of the
"I said I was going to voice my opposition to the
Iraq War. He [the policeman] said: 'We're going to give you a copy of this
"People should have the right to protest
non-violently. The anti-terrorism laws should not be used to stop people doing
Threatened with jail for Iraq protest
Douglas Barker has adopted a new approach to
resistance to the war, by withholding 10 per cent of his income tax in protest
at Britain's involvement.
The former RAF serviceman, who is 72, owns a
200-acre estate in Wiltshire and describes himself as a lifelong socialist who
was a firm supporter of Tony Blair until the war. On Wednesday, he was
threatened with jail if he continued to refuse to pay the £1,142.58 the Inland
Revenue says he owes. When completing his tax return for the second half of this
year, Mr Barker, 72, estimated that 10 per cent of all government expenditure
went on the military. He said: "I came to the conclusion that by paying this, I
was violating my conscience, because I felt it would have been used illegally to
kill people in a sovereign state.
"If I have to go to jail, I will go to
Held for shouting 'nonsense' at Jack Straw
Walter Wolfgang, 82, a Labour party member for 57
years, became a cause célèbre after he was bundled out of the Labour Party
conference hall in Brighton in September.
His offence was to shout "nonsense" as Jack Straw,
the Foreign Secretary, defended Britain's role in Iraq.
He was later stopped under anti-terrorist powers as
he tried to re-enter the hall. The heavy-handed treatment of Mr Wolfgang revived
criticism of the "control freakery" associated with Labour.
Mr Wolfgang fled Nazi Germany as a teenager for
Britain. He said: "I shouted out 'nonsense'. That's all I said. Then these two
toughies came round and wanted to manhandle me out ... Physically, I am not too
well, so I said I would follow them."
The over-reaction by conference stewards backfired
and turned into a public relations disaster for the party. The anti-terror law
used to stop Mr Wolfgang was Section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000. It is
supposed to be deployed against suspected terrorists, not
Convicted for reading the names of 97 war dead
Maya Evans, 25, this week became the first person
to be convicted under the new laws banning demonstrations near Parliament. She
was given a conditional discharge and ordered to pay £100 in costs after being
found guilty of breaching Section 132 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police
Act 2005. Her "serious" crime was to stand by the Cenotaph, close to Downing
Street, reading aloud the names of the 97 British soldiers who have died in
Ms Evans, a part-time vegan chef from Hastings,
east Sussex, was considered such a threat that two police sergeants and 12
constables in two minibuses were sent to arrest her.
Following her conviction, which saddles her with a
criminal record, she said: "I just think it's a shame that you cannot voice your
freedom of speech. It sends out a message that you will be arrested for
remembering the dead."