The leader of the far Right British National Party Nick Griffin has urged his followers to ignore a police ban on the organisation’s planned march near the scene of the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in Woolwich. The call comes despite police warnings that any BNP members who try to demonstrate in south east London on Saturday risk arrest.
Mr Griffin posted on Twitter: “Ignore reports of march ban. See you there on Saturday.” He called the ban, which was issued under the Public Order Act, a “police abuse of power”.
“The right to protest is a fundamental part of our society, however, such an evocative mix of views being expressed in communities still hurting from Lee’s murder could have resulted in ugly scenes on our streets,” said Metropolitan Police Commander Simon Letchford.
The enforced change, if adhered to, raises the prospect of the two far Right rivals – the BNP and English Defence League – reaching the Cenotaph at the same time, along with anti-fascist groups. Speaking to The Independent tonight, Simon Letchford added that the Metropolitan Police was continuing to gather intelligence and would adapt its tactics in the event of any trouble.
Ministers in the UK are currently considering legal changes, according to which insulting speech or actions would no longer be a criminal offence. The move to consider changes to the law on “threatening, abusive or insulting” words in public, under section five of the Public Order Act 1986, was brought forward by civil liberty groups that consider restrictions on “insulting” speech to be unfair. The Daily Mail reports that religious groups “have also criticized the law because the police have used it to arrest harmless Christian protesters. The law that criminalizes insulting speech and actions was used last year to prosecute Emdadur Choudhury, a Muslim extremist and member of Muslims Against Crusades who burned two poppies during the two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday last November, and five Muslims who shouted insults at a homecoming parade. Under the regulations of the proposal, these actions would not lead to criminal prosecutions.
Mohammed Hasnath, a Muslim man from Tower Hamlets, was fined last week after pleading guilty to putting up stickers declaring London’s East End a “gay free zone” earlier this year. The stickers, showing a rainbow flag with a black line through it stating “gay free zone”, outraged East London’s community and were illegal under section 5 of the Public Order Act causing harassment, alarm and distress. Hasnath was fined £100 for the public order offence.