The real purpose of George Bush’s visit to London became clear this afternoon, as Des Browne was set to announce more British troops are to be sent to Afghanistan, and Bush and Gordon Brown declared their intention to enforce further sanctions on Iran.
The tea in Windsor Castle and dinner in Downing St made the visit look like a social occasion, a farewell tour for an outgoing president. But the real reason for visiting Britain was never tea and cakes with the queen. Bush has been travelling round Europe trying to secure support for sanctions and a possible future attack on Iran, for greater support in Afghanistan and for backing for permanent US bases and occupation in Iraq.
Protesters attempting to highlight opposition to these policies were refused the right to march up Whitehall and were attacked by the police. This government appears to have no shame. It has followed its bribery and bullying
to win the vote on 42 day detention without charge for terrorist suspects with
attacks on our right to protest. It has now added further escalation of the
on terror to these attacks on our civil liberties. Gordon Brown is continuing
Tony Blair’s abject loyalty to the most unpopular US president of recent
The Stop the War Coalition has written to the Home Secretary complaining about
the decision to ban protestors from Whitehall and violent police tactics on
The letter is below
Jacqui Smith, Secretary of State
Home Office, 3rd Floor, Peel Building
2 Marsham Street
London, SW1P 4DF
Cc: Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair
Dear Home Secretary
We are writing to protest in the strongest possible terms concerning the
conduct of the Metropolitan Police at yesterday’s demonstration organised by
the Stop the War Coalition, CND and the British Muslim Initiative.
In particular, we wish to raise two decisions with you. First, the decision
ban the march from proceeding peacefully up Whitehall after rallying in
Parliament Square. There can be no justification for this arbitrary
abridgement of our right to peacefully protest. As you may know, the Stop the
War Coalition has organised over twenty major demonstrations in the last seven
years, nearly all of them in London. There has been no disorder, let alone
violence, at any of them. The idea that we could have presented any physical
threat to the President of the United States is laughable. This decision
smacks of a growing authoritarian clamp-down on the right to demonstrate,
bearing in mind that the Metropolitan Police also tried to prohibit our march
in Whitehall last October, and is indicative of your government’s increasingly
cavalier (to put it gently) attitude towards civil liberties. It further
contradicts the Prime Minister’s stated intention, on his accession to office
last summer, to take a more liberal approach to protest around Parliament and
the seat of government.
Second, we ask you to address urgently the violent policing of the
demonstration itself. This arises, of course, from the undemocratic nature of
the decision to ban our march. However, there could under no circumstances be
any justification for the repeated and uncontrolled assault on peaceful
demonstrators who at most were doing no more than attempting to proceed up
Whitehall and in many cases were actually endeavouring to comply with police
instructions. A large number of our supporters, none of whom, of course, were
in any way prepared for any sort of physical confrontation, sustained injuries
from baton-wielding police officers and others were arbitrarily arrested. We
refer you, inter alia, to the attached letter from George Galloway MP to the
Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police which details some of the gross and
unjustified brutality which accompanied much of the policing operation.
We hold that this conduct is entirely unacceptable in a democratic country.
The determination of the police to ensure that our voices cannot be heard in
Whitehall on an issue of urgent public controversy, at the apparent behest of
the US President, presents a bleak picture of the government’s priorities.
We are therefore seeking an urgent meeting with you to discuss this issue.
will understand that there can be no question of any further co-operation
between the Stop the War Coalition and the Metropolitan Police in regard to
future protests until these concerns are addressed to our satisfaction.