Police seek powers to arrest 'middle England' protestors waving placards
Lucy Ballinger – Daily Mail November 28, 2006
Police want new powers to arrest protestors for causing offence with chants and slogans on banners, it has emerged.
The Metropolitan Police, the country's biggest force, is believed to want powers to arrest people wearing headbands or carrying placards deemed to be offensive.
A leaked document from the force states current restrictions on demonstrations have been too light. At the moment causing offence by itself is not a criminal offence.
The Met's assistant commissioner, Tarique Ghaffur, is understood to have drafted the document, which will be sent to Attorney General Lord Goldsmith as part of his review of how effective current laws are in tackling extremists.
Mr Ghaffur, Britain's most senior Muslim officer, called for a ban on flag burning last month. But the new proposal states police powers should be taken further as it states there is a growing perception officers have been too soft on extremist protestors.
"The result has been to create an imbalance in public perception that is manifesting itself in passionate responses from elements of the community not traditionally given to publicly protesting," the document, reported in the Guardian, states. "What we are seeing in effect is a rise in politicisation of middle England and the emergence of a significant challenge for capital city policing."
The leaked proposal is called 'The widening agenda of public demonstrations and radicalisation'. It states Islamic extremists have learned how to cause offence without breaking the law.
It states: "Is the sand shifting in our collective viewpoint around what constitutes 'causing offence'? Equally, we need to have a clearer determination of current community perceptions around what 'public offence' actually means.
"We also need to think more laterally around how we police public demonstrations where 'offence' could be caused while still respecting the British position around freedom of speech."
Last month Mr Ghaffur urged Lord Goldsmith to criminalise flag burning and ban face masks in a crackdown on extremist protesters.
He said: "The reason this is a great country is the tolerance of people. If they start to see images of people who seem to be 'getting away with it', that starts to erode."
He said the proposals would be backed by the Muslim community because they clearly targeted the extremist minority.
Earlier this month firebrand Islamic cleric Anjem Choudary claimed there would be more terrorist atrocities in Britain if Muslims were forbidden from practising their faith.
The 39-year-old lawyer's outburst came at a demonstration by more than 50 people outside the Old Bailey which ended in violence.
There was outrage when he was not prosecuted after issuing a death threat to Pope Benedict at a protest in September.
Last updated 30/11/2006