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Russell Brand and the Tarpaulin Revolution: Is Protesting Banned?

Big Ben overlooking dissent[20/10/2014] Westminster Bridge was weirdly quiet. Surely the reverberations of a big protest on Parliament Square would make it this far? Only minutes earlier, I got a call from a friend at the square who was deeply embroiled in the confrontation between police and well, people sitting down. Now he was waiting outside Charing Cross police station for a protester to be released.

“Pulling people out by their heads you say?” This sounded heavy.

I hopped on the 453 from Elephant and Castle and made my way there as quickly as I could. With only a faint sense of disruption in the air, the bus clock read 10:22pm.
Disappointingly, the Square was relatively quiet. A few groups dotted around, trying to abide by the ludicrous rules that now govern our British protests.  Camping has been long banned on the square but even sheets of tarpaulin are deemed contraband. And on Sunday evening, these plastic bastions of civil disobedience were promptly and violently confiscated by Her Majesty’s finest.

I didn’t actually realize that Russell Brand was going to be there in the aftermath, so after being brushed off the first time, I managed to verbally grapple with this famous figurehead and I followed him giving out pizzas to the police. For some reason, Boris Johnson seemed like a fitting conversational topic.

The exchange did not surprise. The vacuous agenda and needlessly complex rhetoric is textbook Brand. His attempt to patronize me was somewhat surprising, though. God forbid one of his legions questions him?
This said, I do actually like this man and he is useful publicity for the movement. His presence instantly makes the event even more newsworthy. Just watch him gracefully offer pizza to these officers of the law as a token of peace.

“We are allowed to be here, we’re not allowed to sleep, we’re not allowed to sit,” one protester reassured me sarcastically.

There’s your right to protest! Isn’t this absolutely ridiculous? Picture this: a large group of people are demonstrating outside of our representative legislature. Well, more accurately, they are sitting down with arms linked. Then an ocean of high visibility clad brutes swarm the demonstrators and slowly drag their precious tarpaulin away.

Let’s see what the police think about police brutality. Not much apparently.

I sincerely hope that Dan somehow paralyzed his own ability to express an honest opinion, simply because I was filming. But I doubt that. Are all the droves of law enforcement, apart from the corrupt ones, really this blindly aligned to the state?  What of those they are meant to protect? This all sounds cliché and is easily overblown – we are in Britain after all – but why are our Police, of this democratic state, mindlessly removing and arresting benign protesters?

Crackdowns on these sorts of demonstrations only instills more resilience! I suppose that’s why tarpaulin is removed. It is a much more subtle repression because it takes away a desire to protest – through something as petty as protection from the cold wet mud – without the martyrdom of cracking protester’s skulls.

But not to worry. Today (Tuesday 21, October), a fence is being constructed around the square to stop people protesting all together!
This really is a worrying insight into the state of our democracy. You are allowed to object and protest, but only when and how is deemed acceptable. And apparently, sitting on some plastic isn’t OK.

I just don’t understand this vicious need to stop people protesting in Parliament Square. Why are they not allowed to demonstrate? Are they really a threat? Not to mention the immediate cost of employing all these police officers to do such bidding! It doesn’t make sense!
Originally, according to one participant, the goal was “taxing the bankers and ending austerity. Because you can do that through taxing the bankers and closing loop holes.”

But that’s irrelevant. The purpose has morphed and gained considerable more importance.

“Now it’s got to a point now where the main aim is to defend the right to protest.”

And defend it they must. This is far from over. Watch this space.

For live streaming of the events on Parliament Square, visit Occupy London.

About Dean Forrester

Dean Forrester is the Editor-in-Chief of The International Citizen. An International Politics graduate from King's College London, with an NCTJ Diploma in Journalism, he is interested in international affairs and development.
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