LOCAL activist groups in Sussex are getting together for a march in Brighton defending the Right to Protest.
Following Sussex Police's complicity in criminalising peaceful protest at arms firm EDO and their outrageous attempts to counter local accusations of over-policing last year's demonstration against Israeli aggression in Lebanon, a wide range of local campaign groups have responded to a call from Sussex Action for Peace and Brighton & Hove Palestine Solidarity Campaignto hold a 'Right to Protest' march on Saturday March 17th. Assembly point is Churchill Square at 12 noon.
The Freedom to Protest Coalition includes: Abolish Working Links, Brighton Unemployed Workers Centre, Critical Mass Bike Ride, Green Party, Keep our NHS Public, No Borders, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Respect, Save Titnore Woods, Smash EDO, Socialist Workers Party, Sussex Action for Peace, Squatters and Workers Liberty.
In the last few years the state has been attacking civil liberties in the UK. Successive Labour governments have introduced powers for police to impose conditions on any gathering, took steps to introduce an Identity database and ID cards, criminalised protest in Parliament Square and other key sites, limited the right to trial by jury, sanctioned the use of house arrest and extended the period of time that the police can hold a suspect before charging them.
This political climate is having its effect in Brighton. In 2005, the police colluded with US arms manufacturer EDO MBM to ban any significant protests against them in Moulsecoomb by attempting to impose a High Court injunction.
Meanwhile, marches that took place against EDO in town were met with provocative and heavy-handed policing. Despite legal intimidation from EDO, backed up by unlawful and unjustified arrests, the company lost the case and had to pay millions of pounds in legal costs.
In 2006 a march called by Sussex Action for Peace in response to Israel's attack on Lebanon was met with intimidating over-policing which included filming babies in pushchairs and the confiscation of a placard which equated the Israeli flag with a Swastika.
The police justified such tactics on the overtly political grounds that the protest was ‘anti-Semitic’. They falsely accused the march of being deliberately planned to provoke the ‘Jewish community’ and started an investigation on demonstrators.
Yet they had to drop their investigation, and, following several complaints, Chief Superintendent Kevin Moore is now being investigated for professional misconduct. Of course, the police’s assumption that all Jews necessarily support Israel was itself anti-Semitic!
All local protests are now under threat. The police routinely try to push demonstrations on to the pavement, to hide them down side streets with the excuse that they ‘disrupt shopping’ in the town centre.
Events such as Critical Mass are randomly obstructed by overzealous and petty policing.
Sussex University has now attempted to suppress students’ protests with an injunction and are trying to get the students to agree to a 'protest protocol'.
The purpose of this demonstration is to reassert our freedom to protest and to be visible when and where it is necessary, despite the desire of the state to suppress dissent.