Here I am making an illegal speech to an illegal gathering.
I was witness to an extraordinary example of the use of “anti-terrorist” laws to deny democracy. The whole of Parliament Square, College Green and Canning Green were closed off with high Harris fencing, as were other spaces nearby. These were protected by a huge police presence. I counted 37 police vans. All this to counter eighty “Occupy Democracy” protestors wishing to highlight the alienation of the political class from the rest of us. That MPs feel the need to make Westminster look like the Somme 1917, to defend themselves against a few ordinary people, is proof that the concept of “democracy” is now alien to the Westminster system.
Some of this was surreal. There were signs up stating that voice amplification was illegal as was “sleeping equipment”. Just what is sleeping equipment? I have managed to sleep my entire life without such equipment. I just close my eyes and it happens. I didn’t even know you needed equipment to sleep. It is a curious thing that officialdom, when it becomes unreasonable, inevitably resorts to poor use of language. Nobody in normal life speaks of “sleeping equipment”. There is a simple English word, “bedding”. If they mean bedding, why don’t they say so?
The happy band of demonstrators had gathered just outside the entrance to the Supreme Court, in a small unfenced area. I used to sing regularly and seriously. Fortunately this has left me with the ability to speak very loudly at length and still with some modulation. If you consider that video is in an area of very heavy traffic noise and with no (banned) amplification, I hope you are impressed! I started speaking in order to fend off what seemed an imminent move by police to start arresting protestors for breach of the peace. This followed an argument over whether an old sofa and rug constituted “sleeping equipment”. A policeman stated that there were legal rulings that “sleeping equipment” included anything that could be adapted for the purpose of sleeping. I suggested to him that he confiscate my trousers, as these were capable of being rolled up and used as a pillow.
The Police Superintendent had just stated that refusal to give up the sofa constituted behaviour likely to lead to a breach of the peace, when I decided to change the dynamic by giving a talk, which peculiarly led almost all the police to withdraw immediately to about a hundred yards away. If you are interested, you can see something of this, and get a tour of the fencing, from this video by one of the protestors.
I say “if you are interested”, but really you ought to be interested. The fact that in Westminster, people who are obviously very peaceful are not allowed simply to express their political view, ought to worry everybody in the UK very, very deeply. We have slipped away from the fundamental precepts of democracy – freedom of speech and assembly, habeas corpus, freedom from torture. None of those exist any more. Lulled by the mainstream media, most people have not even noticed.
I shall be speaking outside the Scottish Parliament on 29th November, and in Dundee, Perth (and possibly Ayr too if I can work it out) on the 30th. I shall be speaking again in Dundee at the March against Austerity on 6th December.