ENGAGE draws our attention to an article in the Harrow Observer which reports that the police are once again refusing to take action against Stop Islamisation of Europe over the provocative demonstration that SIOE is proposing to hold outside Harrow Central Mosque on 13 December.
One William Goddard, Media and Public Relations Manager for Harrow Borough, is quoted as saying: “We are not seeking to ban the proposed protest as there is no legislative basis to do so. Neither the police nor the Home Secretary have any power to ban static demonstrations aside from those on private property.”
This is of course technically true. While the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act gave the police the power to prohibit “trespassory assemblies”, stationary public assemblies cannot be banned under the Public Order Act, only “public processions”. However, Goddard fails to mention that Section 14 of the POA does in fact give the police significant powers in relation to the control of public assemblies. The relevant section reads:
If the senior police officer, having regard to the time or place at which and the circumstances in which any public assembly is being held or is intended to be held, reasonably believes that-
(a) it may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community, or
(b) the purpose of the persons organising it is the intimidation of others with a view to compelling them not to do an act they have a right to do, or to do an act they have a right not to do, he may give directions imposing on the persons organising or taking part in the assembly such conditions as to the place at which the assembly may be (or continue to be) held, its maximum duration, or the maximum number of persons who may constitute it, as appear to him necessary to prevent such disorder, damage, disruption or intimidation.
These provisions in the POA are designed for precisely the sort of public assembly that SIOE is planning.
Bear in mind that Stephen Gash of SIOE has announced he is aiming to bring 2,000 protestors to the rally. And he makes no secret of the poisonous anti-Muslim ideology that they will be promoting. This is no demonstration hiding behind the pretence of opposing “Islamist extremists” – it is explicitly directed against the entire Muslim community, under the slogan “Stop mosque building”. As Gash recently stated: “We do not believe in moderate Muslims…. all Muslims want sharia law and Islam to rule the world. Moderate Muslims are those who watch non-Muslims being killed, but still say Allah u Akbar when the killing is happening…. We oppose immigration from Muslim countries.”
It is self-evident that the protest Gash is proposing to hold would certainly cause serious disruption to the life of the community in Harrow and is very likely to result in serious public disorder. Equally clearly, the demonstration is intended to intimidate the local Muslim population as a whole and visitors to Harrow Central Mosque in particular.
The police therefore have a right and indeed an obligation to impose appropriate conditions on the organisers of the demonstration – namely that it is held well away from the mosque, that it numbers no more than say 50 people, and that it lasts only an hour. If the police refuse to take action against SIOE along these lines, it is not because their hands are tied by their lack of powers but because they refuse to implement the considerable powers they do have.
The basic problem here is that the police have failed to take SIOE and other similar anti-Muslim groups seriously. Only a couple of weeks ago the Met Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, told the Metropolitan Police Authority that neither SIOE or the English Defence League are viewed by the police as extreme right-wing organisations and that they “have the right to protest”.
Perhaps Sir Paul might ask himself how the Met would respond if a group called Stop Judaification of Europe announced that there is no such thing as a moderate Jew, that all Jews were out to take over the world, that Jews should be prevented from entering the UK and, further, that the group was intending to mount a 2,000-strong antisemitic demonstration outside a prominent London synagogue. Would the Met throw up their hands and say that they had no power to intervene, while adding that the organisers of the protest were not really right-wing extremists anyway?
What we are seeing here – along with the BBC’s disgraceful decision to provide a platform for the BNP – is the official appeasement of far-right racism. Under cover of the right to protest and freedom of speech, legitimacy is being given to ideologies that find their full expression in violent assaults against minority communities.