UPDATE 1: The proposed ban was approved by Home Secretary Theresa May on Friday evening (details here).
UPDATE 2 (27/08/11): PCS and Unison have agreed to back the counter-demonstration against the EDL, despite the ban.
On the August 25th, the Metropolitan Police put in an application to the Home office to ban marches in five London boroughs for a period of thirty days, effective from midnight on September 2nd. While this application appears to have arisen as a reaction to the planned EDL march through Tower Hamlets on September 3rd, it will also ban the counter-march planned to oppose the EDL. The proposed blanket ban will also affect any march planned during the thirty days (with the exception of funeral processions and annual local marches) not only in Tower Hamlets, but also Newham, Hackney, Islington, Waltham Forest and possibly the City as well. This potentially includes East London LGBT Pride (24th September), marches to defend libraries and other public services, protests against the DSEi Arms Fair (13th September) and many other protests. This type of ban is extremely worrying for civil liberties and appears to directly contravene Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights which protect the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly and association.
The blanket ban on marches is part of an on-going attempt to undermine the right to protest in the UK, and follows on the heels of serious charges and sentences being handed out to protesters, students and others, at recent demonstrations, as well as increasingly brutal police tactics at protests (kettling, horse charges, baton rounds) and pre-emptive arrests before major events (the royal wedding, Notting Hill carnival). This proposed ban should also be seen in the light of the SOCPA (Serious Organised Crime and Police Act) ban on protests in Westminster, and the on-going attempts to remove peace protesters from Parliament Square. While Defend the Right to Protest do not regard what the EDL do as â€˜protestâ€™, but rather as violent attempts to intimidate religious and ethnic minorities, the police and government response in the form of a blanket ban threatens to define all protest as illegitimate. Defend the Right to Protest condemn both the EDL and the proposed ban on marches, and send a message of solidarity to those protesting against the EDL on the 3rd September.