Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Proscribing the Right to Offend

Norm Geras links to this piece from the Guardian on proposed new laws in Britain that would circumscribe offensive speech at protests:

Police are to demand new powers to arrest protesters for causing offence through the words they chant and the slogans on their placards and even headbands.

The country's biggest force, the Metropolitan police, is to lobby the attorney general, Lord Goldsmith, because officers believe that large sections of the population have become increasingly politicised, and there is a growing sense that the current restrictions on demonstrations are too light.

Trouble at recent protests involving Islamic extremists has galvanised the Met's assistant commissioner, Tarique Ghaffur, into planning a crackdown. His proposals are due to be sent to Lord Goldsmith, who is reviewing how effective the current laws are in tackling extremists.

The police want powers to proscribe protest chants and slogans on placards, banners and headbands. Human rights experts say that such powers could also be used against protesters such as animal rights and anti-globalisation activists. The civil rights group Liberty said the powers would make the police "censors in chief".

(Emphasis added-DD)

I agree with Norm that these proposals go too far. Free expression must include the right to offend. Even those such as Islamists who wish to destroy free speech must be allowed to exercise this right.


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