Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Freedom To Protest Should Mean Freedom To Protest

The right to protest and freedom of expression are fundamental elements of a pluralist democracy. Freedom of expression and freedom to protest peacefully should be indivisible. Protests close to Parliament represent a strong and momentous way for people to protest in a way that is highly visible to their elected representatives.

For all of these reasons, we should feel uncomfortable about the fact that the protesters in Parliament Square being moved on this morning and long standing protesters, such as Brian Haw being arrested.

It seems that much of the commentary about the break up of the demonstration seems to hinge on whether the commentators agree with the demonstration or not. I didn’t see some of the right wing commentators who seem so offended by the anti capitalist and anti war demonstrations lamenting the fact that the Countryside Alliance, for example, spent so much time in Parliament Square a few years ago.

Needless to say, whether you agree with the demonstrators or not should be beside the point. If you believe in freedom to protest then you believe in freedom to protest. The right to protest should not be limited because you do not agree with the views of the protestors or because you believe that the protest is creating an ‘eyesore’ (which is, after all, a subjective term anyhow). The right to protest should certainly not be limited because it causes a minor inconvenience to Members of Parliament.

We should be cherishing our freedoms and celebrating the fact that people (whether we agree with them or not) are politically engaged. The Police breaking up a peaceful protest about anything is something that we should be deeply concerned about.

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