All entries for Thursday 11 November 2004

November 11, 2004

On curtailing the right to protest

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This is not a posting about animal rights, though I am myself a vegetarian and supportive of animal rights in general I can't condone some of the measures taken by animal rights extremists.

Instead this a posting about what the injuction Oxford University has secured to protect its animal testing researchers, means for the right to protest. One of the measures in the injunction restricts protestors of any kind from gathering near the site of the proposed building apart from a maximum of 25 (I also heard 50 reported elsewhere) in a small specially deisgnated area once a week. This injunction was granted supposedly in the interests of protecting the safety of contractors working on building the new animal research buildings.

I would like to suggest that not only is this injunction likely to have the opposite effect to what it intends it is also sets a dangerous precedent in eroding the right to protest.

Firstly, I believe that if you attempt to restrict the ability of people dedicated to protecting the lives of animals from protesting in support of this right then they are more likely to opt for illegal and dangerous methods to get ther point across. By demonising one form of relatively harmless expression you potentially force the movement further underground and into more desperate measures. This could endanger the lives of both the protestors and the researchers as more people take up extreme action like smashing car windows and such like.

Secondly, I believe that the injunction will do nothing to stop the people who already operate on the extreme fringe of the movement. If they had no qualms about breaking the law before this injunction will only heighten their feelings of injustice and encourage them to continue in their already illegal activities.

Thirdly and most importantly our historic right to protest has come under attack. It may seem like an unimportant step that a court has restricted the rights of protestors in a public place because not many of us our very motivated about the issue; but look again. A precedent has now been set, now anyone who doesn't like the idea of having their activities protested against can potentially seek an injuction of this kind. What is to stop a future goverment deciding that its had enough of these crazy war protestors and seeking an injunction to keep them out of trafalgar square or the rest of London. It may seem far away now, but today I believe a step has been taken down this path.

What do you think?

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