This man is not a demonstrator (today)
This woman was a demonstrator (August 2005)
Not a demonstrator (today)
Arrested for demonstrating August 8th, in court tomorrow
So said the solitary copper in Parliament Square today when I asked him why he wasn't arresting Gary Smithers, standing loud and proud with his banner reading "Parliament Square belongs to the people".
"That's my opinion anyway".
Asked what it would take to make him illegal, he pointed out a different banner (Terrorism is not just taking bombs and committing suicide) "or he could start shouting or something".
"Then I'd refer it up to a senior officer"
So how come he could decide that Gary was not committing an offence, but he'd have to get a senior officer to declare that he was?
"Look, there's a lot of CCTVs pointing at this square. and there's a lot of senior officers looking at them right now. We're being asked to make political decisions, and I just don't want to do that. I'm leaving that to someone else."
Clearly SOCPA Section 132 is becoming an embarrassment all round. Designed to get rid of peace campaigner Brian Haw, it was famously mis-written allowing him to become the only person in the world legally able to demonstrate without permission.
But what does "demonstrate" mean? The scarcity of visible police in Parliament Square today was a refusal to pick up the semantic gauntlet thrown down by activists there in force to demonstrate activities as diverse as cake decorating, puppetry and taking a nap.
Childish stuff you may say. But even that young copper could work out that this kind of activity wasn't normal behaviour and that what was going on was clearly a demonstration, even under the terms of the Act.
"What they want is to get arrested", he said. "The organisers will probably crank it up to try and provoke a response".
That is what neither the police nor the Home Office want to see. They had another four convictions last week, five more appear at Bow Street Magistrates this week, one probable agent provocateur has been exposed ( http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2006/01/331106.html) and the press are up in arms over a conviction for ringing a bell!
Still to come is the glorious case of a woman arrested for wearing the sign reading 'I am not the serious, organised criminal' - so the last thing they want joining the queue is someone on a charge of demonstrating the art of icing a cake.
As a senior officer told me last December, things need to be brought to a head. The police simply don't want to implement what he described as "a crazy law" (see http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2005/12/329687.html)
Here's an extract from Hansard: