With thanks to B Heard Media
A protester was arrested for “breaching the peace” and dragged away by the police from a peaceful protest, as the prime minister’s car arrived in Wrexham before the launch of the Welsh Conservative manifesto.
Connor was dragged to the ground by police as May’s motorcade swept past. Blowing a horn, he attempted to move towards the car with a banner before he was pounced on, tackled and dragged away, surrounded by hordes of photographers and journalists. A journalist and fellow campaigners asked if he was under arrest, an officer said: “Yes, he’s under arrest.” Pressed on what charge, he replied: “Breach of the peace.”
Connor was dragged along the floor, whilst shouting “This is the fascist state that we are living in under Theresa May’s regime.”
He told reporters who were present that he was protesting about the “repeal of the foxhunting Act, fracking, austerity, “state therapy”, – the lot”.
“I’ve not done nothing wrong,” he added.
Another demonstrator told police that Connor, who appeared to have a Merseyside accent, had “done nothing wrong” and described their response as a farce.
Theresa May has said she would give Conservative MPs a free vote on the ban, most likely meaning that in a planned and highly regressive move, the ban will be lifted if the party wins the number of seats it seems to expect to.
25-year-old Connor was later released without charge.
Superintendent Nick Evans claims: “Our policing operation today was proportionate and necessary.”
Article 11 Right to protest and freedom of association
Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly. This is a right closely linked to the right to freedom of expression. The right to peaceful protest in the UK is expressly guaranteed under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR).
It provides a means for public expression and is one of the key foundations of a democratic society.
The right applies to protest marches and demonstrations, press conferences, public and private meetings, counter-demonstrations, “sit-ins”, motionless protests etc.
The right only applies to peaceful gatherings and does not protect intentionally violent protest.
This was not a violent protest.
There may be interference with the right to protest if the authorities prevent a demonstration from going ahead; halt a demonstration; take steps in advance of a demonstration in order to disrupt it; and store personal information on people because of their involvement in a demonstration.
The right to peaceful assembly cannot be interfered with merely because there is disagreement with the views of the protesters or because it is likely to be inconvenient and cause a nuisance or there might be tension and heated exchange between opposing groups.
There is a positive obligation on the State to take reasonable steps to facilitate the right to freedom of assembly, and to protect participants in peaceful demonstrations from disruption by others.
The rights to free speech and protest, along with the right to form and join associations or groups, are found in Articles 10 and 11 of the UK Human Rights Act 1998.
These rights can be limited by law to protect the interests of others, but only when the limitation is proportionate and necessary in a democratic society.
So, for example:
- the right to free speech will not protect a person who tries to spread hateful lies against another but it will protect fair comment;
- the right to protest won’t protect violent gatherings but it will protect peaceful protest.
In recent years we have seen a variety of measures introduced that undermine the right to protest and freedom of speech:
- Laws that were explicitly intended to combat anti-social behaviour, terrorism and serious crime are routinely used against legitimate protesters;
- Broadly drafted anti-terrorism offences of ‘encouragement’ and ‘glorification’ of terrorism threaten to make careless talk a crime;
- Membership of certain organisations can be banned under anti-terror laws even if the organisation is non-violent and political;
- Hate speech laws have been extended in a piecemeal way to ban ever-expanding categories of speech;
- Broad anti-terrorism powers of stop and search have been used to harass and stifle peaceful protesters;
- Protest around Parliament has been severely restricted by laws limiting and overly regulating the right to assemble and protest around Parliament.
Another Conservative government will undermine both the right to protest and disassemble our human rights more generally.
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