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Posted: 3/27/2006 2:26:33 PM EDT
Monday, March 27, 2006
I may be right, I may be wrong, but I'm perfectly willing to swear

Andrew Apostolou at Michael J. Totten's site describes his experiences at the Trafalgar Square rally for free speech recently held in London and notes of the police practice of photographing the demonstrators, though one commenter at the site suggested it was to identify pickpockets working the crowd.


One of the ways in which the police in repressive societies intimidate people is by turning up at protest meetings and taking pictures of them. What, then, are we supposed to make of this behaviour in London yesterday? Note that this is the same Metropolitan Police that did nothing about demonstrators who incited to violence in May 2005 and then only responded in February 2006 after a public outcry.


One of the photographs of the rally available at Nordishnet shows Iranian-born Maryam Namazie, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, speaking to the crowd.



The caption at Nordishnet says:


See the guy to the right of Maryam... he is pointing out something in the crowd to the police. I believe he may be the complainer that the police was talking about in the BBC article!


"Police said there had been no arrests but officers did receive a complaint about the message on one protester's placard. A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said officers spoke to the man and he was later allowed to rejoin the demonstration. "The complainant stated they felt threatened by a placard they believed depicted the Prophet Muhammad," she said. "Details of the complaint, together with evidence gathered by police are to be passed to the Crown Prosecution Service."



There's no way of confirming who the man was pointing to, but a demonstrator was warned by police for displaying "a banner containing the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad", according to Yahoo News.


British police officers speak to Iranian Reza Moradi, 29, who displayed a banner containing the controversial Danish cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, at a demonstration rally supporting freedom of expression in Trafalgar Square, London, Saturday March 25, 2006. About 200 people held a free-speech demonstration in central London on Saturday, with several displaying posters of the cartoons that infuriated much of the Muslim world




That's an uh-uh, buddy

The other thing that was apparently frowned upon was the display of flags, such as for example, the American flag.



That's another no-no, buddy

Samizdata which was at Trafalgar Square says that "according to a warden, there is allegedly a by-law against flying national flags in Trafalgar Square, which I find hard to believe as I always see Palestinian flags and (burning) US or Israeli flags when ever folks from the Middle East protest in Trafalgar Square... so the Danish Flags here became 'Danish Shawls'" ... and the American flag became another theme scarf in crowd suddenly well-supplied with scarves.


These are shawls!


This is a Dr. Who scarf

Commentary
I've tried unsuccessfully to determine the date of the by-law against flying national flags in Trafalgar Square. The by-law apparently wasn't there on November 30, 2005, when at a Rally for Palestine several Palestinian Flags were planted on Nelson's column itself as may be seen at the Justify This! blog. Maybe the Palestinian flag isn't considered a national flag and is exempt from the ban. (Nelson's Column is in the middle of Trafalgar Square)



There's more on the ban on displaying of non-UK flags here, though it's not much. There's a what looks like a pro-Palestine website (complete with audio) showing pretty much a sea of Palestinian flags right on the steps of the National Gallery (including a flag of Hizbullah if you scroll down far enough at Nelson's column). And here again on Nelson's Column.

Here's an Al Jazeerah opinion editorial from November 2003 written by G.R.D. King, a Reader in Islamic Art and Archaeology, SOAS, University of London.


"When the papier maché Bush statue had fallen on its face in Trafalgar Square, I turned from a conversation with a professor of mathematics I had just met — it was an educated demonstration — and a flag brushed my head. I looked up and saw the flag of Palestine, an apt symbolic ending to the day. The massed girls in black hijab, all fasting for Ramadan, marching with those accusing flags, the red, green and black tricolor of the Holy Land, all of them recognizing better than ever Bush has done that the root cause of the alienation, of our deep and present dangers is the injustice that is daily and relentlessly dealt to the Palestinians. Those flags, so numerous, so liberally scattered among the marchers, Geporge W. Bush ought surely to have seen them. They might have brought him some understanding of cause and effect."


"Those flags, so numerous, so liberally scattered among the marchers" were welcome where the United States and Danish flags were not? Maybe the by-law has been newly enacted.


posted by wretchard at 12:56 AM | 47 comments links to this post

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