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From The Socialist newspaper, 29 November 2006

Top cops say: "Protest but don't offend anyone"

BRITAIN'S BIGGEST police force, the Metropolitan Police are lobbying for new powers to arrest protesters for 'causing offence' through the words that they chant, the slogans they put on their placards and even the headbands they wear.

Amazingly, the Met chiefs say that they fear that "large sections of the population have become increasingly politicised" so, they claim, the current restrictions on demonstrations are too light.

The top cops talk of the dangers of "any extremist group" displaying banners or making public statements "that clearly cause offence within the existing law."

The police chiefs may want to frighten off people from going on demonstrations, pickets and strikes. But any attempt to do that or to stop people exercising their democratic right of free expression will be resisted strongly.

Such a law would potentially hit every worker, every student, every community activist.

People who protest at the injustices of the world (even on such a popular and vital issue as stopping the closing of a local hospital) will ask one question. How on earth can you organise an effective strike or protest that offends absolutely no-one?

The Met's statements may make people ask whether the police chiefs themselves are becoming "increasingly politicised" and how much support there is for their offensive, authoritarian ideas in the New Labour cabinet.

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