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Saturday, 19 September 2009

Demos and counterdemos

There’s this band of people about to march through your city. You don’t like what they stand for, and you don’t care much for free speech.

While there are some who also don’t like what they stand for, they’re happy to let the march go because that’s what freedom of expression is about and, anyway, there will be marches opposed to those views in the future. Everyone gets a chance.

But you’re one of those people who are determined, by hook or by crook, to ensure that the march does not go ahead. How do you do it? Well, you threaten to hold a counterdemonstration, that’s what.

Suddenly, the police say, “Hey, there could be violence here.” And they ban the first march, which might have gone ahead without trouble if there had been no threat from other elements.

This is happening in Scotland.

I don’t know in detail just what sort of ethnic and political makeup the English Defence League – which seems to be about to form a Scottish arm – holds. Certainly, its choice of name doesn’t exactly endear it to those of a suspicious frame of mind. It has too much of the National Front about it, somehow, or at least the British National Party.

But, name apart, it claims it’s against Islamic extremism, not Muslims themselves.

Yet, according to the story linked to above, which appeared in yesterday’s Scotsman, some of its members have been seen making Nazi salutes and the organisation has links with gangs of football hooligans. The story provides no proof, so, from that alone, we don’t know.

The paper says, “A spokesman for Glasgow City Council yesterday said ‘any application [for a street march] would be considered’. However, senior officials at the authority, which has the power to ban marches on police safety advice, would be keen to block any demonstration that is deemed likely to lead to violence.”

The story adds, “Some city leaders fear that the EDF could spark counter-demonstrations from Glasgow’s still highly mobilised left groups and from city Islamists.”

And that would be, we assume, what would spark the violence, not the march itself.

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