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Be soothed. Be comforted. Good sense will prevail…

It is right to ban the English Defence League’s march, argues Lutfur Rahman, the leader of Tower Hamlets council. How sensible and moderate he is. Observe how he calms the fears expressed by the left wing feminist writer Nina Power that the power to ban the EDL today is certain to be used against other causes tomorrow. Mr Rahman writes,

So while I applaud the Metropolitan police and the home secretary in listening to the many voices from our community in banning the EDL march, I will support the right of community organisations to hold some of the events that Power fears might be banned. However, I feel sure that good sense will prevail, and that the authorities will be capable of distinguishing between community events and demonstrations designed to whip up racial and religious intolerance.

Pernickety people might argue that once the “right” to demonstrate is dependent on your organisation falling within the authorities’ definition of a “community organisation”, then it is no longer a right. Really, though, who can be bothered with such far-fetched ideas? We have the assurance of a local politician that good sense will prevail.

25 comments to Be soothed. Be comforted. Good sense will prevail…

  • Laird

    “I feel sure that good sense will prevail”

    Yes, there’s certainly a lot of historical evidence to support that.

  • JH

    The longer they try to suppress demonstrations against the way our society is heading, the nastier the backlash will be when the cork finally gets blasted from the kettle spout.

    All it takes is one charismatic leader to play on this suppressed fury, and we surge into a very, very nasty period.

  • Sunlight is nature’s antiseptic.

    “Let them march on, so that others will know them mad” to paraphrase.

    Regardless, Lutfur Rahman has established one fact – his unsuitability for public office.

  • ManikMonkee

    Presumably the opposite side would be banned as well, the fundie Muslims chanting death to infidels etc?

  • Aetius

    MankiMonkee “the opposite side” is not primarily the “fundie Muslims”, but the Frankfurt school Marxists – who are more commonly known as “progressives” / “social democrats”.

    As I understand it, when the English Defence League or their Scottish offshoot, the SDL, march, there is usually a larger counter demonstration by – the unintentionally ironically named – Unite Against Fascism – which is, of course, a left wing organisation with some Muslims onboard.

  • llamas

    I hate Tower Hamlets Nazis.



  • David Deutsch

    “Demonstrations designed to whip up racial and religious intolerance” should be allowed. (And so, of course, should counter-demonstrations.) But demonstrations designed to intimidate a local population with veiled threats of violence, or to incite violence, or to act as a cover for violence, should not. I don’t know the specifics of the demonstration being discussed here (I only know of it from this very post), so i don’t know which category it falls under. But I know that Libertarians often feel obliged to defend demonstrations of the second kind in the mistaken belief that this is entailed by the rights to freedom of speech and association.

  • Whilst I.. sort of… agree, David, my worry is that the people who get to make the determination (of which kind of demonstration is which) are people that I just do not trust to act in ‘good faith’… which makes this an intractable problem from my problem I suppose as it boils down the the fact I think ‘The System’ which we rely upon to maintain order has become irretrievably untrustworthy.

  • bloke in spain

    But “veiled threats of violence, or to incite violence, or to act as a cover for violence” are not threats of violence, or to incite violence, or to act as a cover for violence, are they? The latter would be unlawful. Anything could be construed as the former depending on the opaqueness of the supposed veil .

  • David Deutsch

    @Perry: OK but even if you were right about the state of ‘The System’, it would still be important to discuss what the law should be.

    @bloke in spain: No, veiled threats of violence are threats of violence. The issue of veiling is relevant to the standard of proof, not to what the fact of the matter is. Different standards of proof should and do apply for different types of decision. The standard required to convict and imprison a person for threatening violence is and should be much higher than that required to ban an intimidating march. Between those two levels is the level required for (say) a shopkeeper to sue people who have destroyed his business by standing outside his shop intimidating customers.

  • @Perry: OK but even if you were right about the state of ‘The System’, it would still be important to discuss what the law should be.

    Yes indeed. But I do think it is easy to draft such a law so that cannot be selectively applied to serve narrow factional interests (i.e. banning whoever the Abominated Other is today) rather than social interests (i.e just maintaining an acceptable level of order on the streets) :-/

  • ErisGuy

    So when will the EDL secure its rights through revolution?

  • guy herbert

    The relevant legislation was framed in wiser times. Section 13 of the Public Order Act 1986(Link) does not allow “the government” to pick and choose which marches to ban on the basis of their political colouration.

    Marches are not banned by the government. They are not bannable on the basis that they cause offence to the local community. The only ground for a ban is that a chief officer of police “reasonably believes that, because of particular circumstances existing in any district or part of a district, the powers under section 12 will not be sufficient to prevent the holding of public processions in that district or part from resulting in serious public disorder” …. and applies to the relevant local authority for a ban… and it agrees. Such a ban must ban all processions from the district for a set period. It must be even-handed, in other words.

    Neither Lutfur Rahman nor the agitators responsible for threatening suggesting there would be violent opposition to the march, nor the journalists discussing it from the left, seem to be acquainted with the law.

    Perhaps they are not acquainted with the idea of rule of law, since they appear to think the state has absolute power to do what it likes, and that it ought to like whatever it is that they like.

  • Alex Bensky

    I have seen pictures of groups holding signs saying things like, “Behead Those Who Insult Islam,” but my guess–just speaking from across the water, I may not know the delightful customs of you folks over there-is that none of these guys would think about banning that sort of demonstration.

    Thank goodness for our First amendment which is enabling us to hold out, more or less, against the suppression of freedom.

  • guy herbert

    You have seen photos of one group; one that specialises in attempting to provoke public outrage and getting lots of press coverage. That was one incident in 2006. It is still being reported by those determined to be terrified of muslims as if it were common currency in Britain. They are, as English idiom has it, “wind-up merchants” albeit without a sense of humour.

    Their latest trick has been posting notices on lampposts, mainly in East London, declaring areas to be “Sharia Controlled Zones” http://www.eastlondonadvertiser.co.uk/news/extremists_plaster_east_end_in_posters_declaring_sharia_law_zone_1_979146
    … They can be happy in the knowledge that this will be taken seriously and massively multiplied in effect by the drooling eurabiacs of the American blogosphere who will reproduce it as “evidence” that sharia is being applied in Britain.

    Even though we don’t have a First Amendment, English law does not give anyone the power to ban a static demonstration in a public place, and no notice you are going to demonstrate is required either. (For five years there has been an exception to this in a small patch of central London close to parliament and Whitehall, but that law is in the process of repeal.) As long as you are not obstructing the highway you can just turn up and demonstrate.

    It is public processions that are subject to control on public order grounds. And, as I have gone blue in the face trying to point out in the last week, a procession cannot be banned because of its objects or any lawful opinion expressed.

    AFAICS “Behead Those Who Insult Islam” is lawful as a policy proposal, however calculated to be unpopular. Calling for a broad category of people to be killed is pretty standard populist democracy. There’s even an e-petition on HM Government’s official site. I do not think the 3,000 people who say “All crimes of Murder, in-particular committed against Children and Police Officers should demand the Capital Punishment of Hanging” are any different. It is just the sacred objects ‘children’ and ‘police officers’ are more widely worshipped in Britain.

  • If only you lived in America where the constitution prevails:

    I never noticed a Prohibition Amendment. Except for Alcohol.

  • Perry,

    The Doctrine in the US (when it is followed) is: no prior restraint when it comes to speech.

  • Paul Marks

    Read the quotation from the BBC person Andrew Marr, cited on the “Biased BBC” site.

    The estalbishment/elite not only believe in “repression” and brainwashing – they no longer bother to hide the fact that they do.

    They believe the society they want can work – if people are indoctrinated (with “Progressive” ideology) and if all dissent is crushed.

    However, the “Progressive” Welfare State society they believe in can NOT work (no matter how much indoctination and repression there is).

    And this will become increasingly plain over time.

    Many of the Guardian readers (the media creatures, teachers, university lecturers…. and, yes, some of the financial elite) will live to see their most treasured beliefs utterly discredited – the system they believe in, fail and fall totally.

    However, this process will be far from pleasant – and we will suffer at least as much as they will.

  • Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat


    You’re country has no written constitution so, in the end, your government does have the power to do what it likes, and what it likes, demonstrated over the last 20 years or so, is taking away your fundamental rights.

  • Ming the Merciless Siamese Cat


    Your country has no written constitution so, in the end, your government does have the power to do what it likes, and what it likes, demonstrated over the last 20 years or so, is taking away your fundamental rights.

  • Mark L

    Damn I’m glad my ancestors had the sense to move to a country that separated itself from Britain to get away from this type of horse puckey, and then went one step further to enshrine the ability to peaceably assemble and to petition for the redress of grievances as fundamental rights in their overarching legal document.

    We don’t care what government drones say about reasonableness of our causes. We don’t have to.

  • If ONLY we believed in our own U.S. Constitution enough to DEMAND our “free” partners adhere to it we wouldn’t have to be reading this type of stuff. NO visas, NO aid, NO support for any country or it’s people if they can’t openly support the FIRST AMENDMENT. Draw a line in the sand to separate the tyrants from the people yearning to live free and bring out the popcorn. This is going to be good! IF we actually believe in it ourselves.

  • Duke

    Flesh out these different approaches in the US and UK. In the US, the march cannot be banned, the theory being that a) if they want to make asses of themselves all the better they do it publicly and b) if free speech is truly a right the government is without power to regulate it except in cases of imminent harm (rioting). In the UK, it appears the right to march and speak depends on not being a group banned from such by the government.
    All is well and good in both cases if the assumption holds true that the government is congruent with the citizens’ views. But what of less typical times when citizens oppose en masse and the government’s nature, like human nature when confronted with widespread disapproval, is to retrench and defend itself against opposition? If one believes in the social contract thoery of consent being THE condition precedent to any exercise of governmental powers, only one approach deals properly with the less typical scenario.
    True rights exist only where government has no power to curtail them. That was one gift of the US founders that not even Athens contemplated.

  • richard40

    So the local authority can ban any march they wish, because they happen to perceive a “veiled threat of violence”. But on course only conservatives have “veiled threats of vioolence”. Muslim marchers can have signs saying “behead those who insult Islam” and of course that is not ‘veiled violence”, but legidimate democratic expression. It looks like free speech is dead in Britain. If the left has their way it will soon be dead in the USA as well.