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U.K.’s Crackdown on Anti-Royal Protests Makes U.S. Free Speech Look Good


“Who elected him?”

Shouting these three words led to Symon Hill capturea British republican activist in Oxford at a coronation parade of (now) King Charles III. Hill is arrest (although no arrests were subsequently made, which is a thing in the UK) under the recently enacted Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act 2022 (PCSC Act) and also being investigate under the Public Order Act, 1986.

This is not an isolated incident of excessive policy. UK Police arrested at least three other protesters who spoke out against the monarchy in the past few days.

In Edinburgh, a 22-year-old woman was arrest for violating the peace after she held up a sign that read “Abolish the Monarchy” and “F*** Imperialism”. One viral video from Buckingham Palace in London showing Metropolitan Police officers escorting a lawyer holding a “#NotMyKing” sign. Police later clarify that the person was not formally arrested and that “the public has every right to object”, which was later clarify for all officers. Despite this welcome correction, it is clear that UK police have adopted a more or less systematic campaign against accusers of the monarchy during the mourning period for the Queen’s death.

For those who believe that free speech and peaceful protest are fundamental rights of a democracy, the legal basis for suppressing such political protests is of great concern.

PCSC was issued earlier this year in the context of climate and Black lives are worth it too protests in recent years. The Act empowers the police to set conditions on public councils — and even one person’s demonstration—If police believe protests could cause serious disruption to people in the vicinity. Not surprisingly, the Act was be censured for undermining protections for freedom of speech and assembly by giving the police ambiguous and arbitrary powers that could potentially be abused.

In addition to the PCSC, the police also cited the Public Order Act, 1986, prohibit the use of threatening or abusive words or disorderly conduct that has the potential to cause harassment, alarm or concern to others. But these subjective notions also provide police with too broad a foothold to decide on their own, and as a result, the Act has been used to crack down on a many peaceful protests— Sort words cruelty to animals protesters to atheists display posters question the existence of God.

Britain’s suppression of republican protests highlights the fundamental difference between British and American conceptions of free speech.

An anti-Royal protester demonstrates outside the Palace of Westminster, central London on September 12, 2022, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8.

MARCO BERTORELLO / Getty

The UK tends towards this elitist and top-down approach to freedom, which sees order and freedom in tension, and tends to err on the side of order when the This value is considered to be in conflict. Furthermore, in Britain, “order” is often understood to mean the established order and the institutions and people who embody it. Many kings.

Perhaps, there is no case that embodies this tradition more clearly 1792 trial against Tom Paine for his famous book, Human Rights, Part II. In it, Paine praised equality and universal suffrage – denied to the lower classes and religious dissidents – and argued that “All hereditary governments are autocratic in nature. The crown of inheritance, or the throne of inheritance, or by other fanciful names, what such things may be called, has no substantial explanation other than that mankind is hereditary property. ”

According to the attorney general, Paine’s work was “mocking and contemptuous” and “absolutely defying all laws, morals, and religions,” especially because it was distributed among the lower classes of society. society, who are easily deceived. Furthermore, “The rudeness with which Monarchy was treated was quite shocking.”

In short, Paine was found guilty of ambitious defamation for being “an evil, ambitious and ill-fated man, and intended to scandalize, trade and smear the character of the late King William said in above” and intends “to destroy all submission and obedience to the law.” It took about 30 seconds for the jury to agree, even though Paine had fled to France.

… the suppression of republican activism in Britain is a timely reminder that the right to peaceful protest cannot be taken for granted.

Contrast this with Draft by James Madison on what would become the First Amendment. It is based on the premise that in America, the people – not Congress – are ultimately sovereign; and members of Congress are servants, not masters, of those who elected them. Since then, people have the right to scrutinize and criticize those who exercise power on their behalf. The Madisonian philosophy of free speech thus incorporated the idea that egalitarian freedom of speech was necessary for a sovereign people to govern themselves by asserts that freedom of expression also constitutes “wall of freedom“Protect all other rights of citizens. As such, freedom of expression would be safe from both illiberal democracies and the newly empowered federal government’s designs to discourage dissent.

Despite the marked philosophical differences between the protections of free speech in the US and the UK, Americans’ constitutionally protected rights to peacefully protest and vehemently criticize political Public office is not always respected in practice. In 1798, President John Adams signed it into law The act of defamation, defended himself, his government and Congress from criticism. That very five, Luther Baldwin was jailed for making a drunken joke about John Adams’ “butt,” as the president passed through Newark in a carriage.

But the Seduction Act debate revived the debate about first principles and the difference between British and American conceptions of free speech. In a pamphlet attacking the Seduction Act, Virginia attorney George Hay Written that laws against seduction are natural in Britain “where privilege and monopoly are the basis of government” but, “in the United States, it is disgraceful.”

Anti-Royal protesters hold up blank placards during a demonstration against the way their protests are being controlled, in Edinburgh on September 13, 2022, following the Queen’s death Elizabeth II on September 8. – British police faced criticism from civil liberties groups on Tuesday over their treatment of anti-monarchy protesters who have publicly challenged knowledge of King Charles III’s accession to the throne and public support for the royal family.

OLI SCARFF / Getty

The Sedition Act expired in 1801, but as persecuted groups sought to protest their subjugation and disenfranchisement, the content and spirit of the First Amendment was frequently violated over the centuries. next.

In 1919, at least forty members of the National Women’s Party caught after burning an effigy of President Woodrow Wilson and made “violent speeches” accusing Wilson of being “the leader of an autocratic party” that was holding “millions of women as political slaves” at a rally love of the suffering outside the White House.

In the South, the authorities trying to stifle the civil rights movement of challenged white supremacy by arresting and jailing activists on seemingly neutral charges of content such as “distributing material without a license” – after handing out leaflets to mobilized African-Americans to vote in Alabama and Mississippi. In 1963, John Lewis arrested for carrying a sign with the slogan “One Man, One Vote.” Martin Luther King, Jr. arrested more than twenty times for various speech offenses, including praying outside town hall and marching without a permit. He wrote his popularity Letters from a Birmingham prison in 1963 while in custody for order violation against “Marchs, demonstrations, boycotts, trespasses and picnics.”

However, in the civil rights era of the 1960s, Supreme Court cases such as New York Times sues Sullivan and Edwards and South Carolina finally turned the First Amendment from a mere promise into an enforceable right, ensuring that racial, political, and religious minorities were protected (instead of prosecuted) when speaking out against the government and the majority.

London Metropolitan Police officers patrol at the Palace of Westminster, central London on September 12, 2022, following the death of Queen Elizabeth II on September 8.

MARCO BERTORELLO / Getty

But even today, the right to peaceful protest is challenged like status Legislatures have proposed or passed a series of laws that limit objections written in that word is are often vague and undefined, and thus jeopardize hard-won First Amendment freedoms.

Accordingly, the suppression of republican activity in the United Kingdom is a timely reminder that the right to peaceful protest cannot be taken for granted and should be vigorously defended even when it is authorized. used to propagate ideas that are “offensive” or “insensitive” to the public.





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