Defending basic rights in lock-down Germany

Guest post by Sabine Beppler, Berlin. The German historian Dr René Schlott has launched an initiative called ‘Grundgesetz a casa’ (constitution at home). He writes: Many of our basic rights as citizens have been severely restricted, and it is frightening to see how fast we can get used to this. Though forced to stay at home, he calls on people to defend their basic rights. ‘Grundgesetz a casa’ hopes that as many people as possible will join the campaign. They can do this by reading out an article from the German constitution (Basic Law), explaining why it must be defended. People who don’t…

The witch-hunt culture in the arts: a personal account

I have worked in the arts for 34 years. I was an immigrant from a working-class background, and the first to gain a degree in my family; both my parents had left school at 14. I have always been interested by ideas, experimentation, and the world of the imagination as expressed through the arts – converging to curate work that asked audiences to question and to open new doors of understanding. I also believed that clashing ideas and traditions could create fresh thinking, looking at the world differently. My politics is an eclectic one, as I moved from Marxist, socialist thought to…

Manchester Council abortion clinic PSPO: Manifesto Club response

Manchester City Council is proposing a PSPO outside a Marie Stopes abortion clinic, which will include a prohibition on ‘protest, namely engage in any act of approval / disapproval or attempted act of approval / disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services by any means. This includes but is not limited to graphic, verbal or written means, prayer or counselling.’ While the Manifesto Club wholeheartedly supports women’s right to access abortion services without harassment or obstruction, we have grave concerns about the broad nature of this order and its impact upon freedom of speech. Here is our response below to…

Comment on Birmingham school protests

Birmingham City Council is considering a PSPO to restrict parents protesting outside primary schools, in disagreement with the schools’ teaching on sexuality. Here is the Manifesto Club statement on the issue: PSPOs should not be used to restrict peaceful protest in public places. There are already powers to prosecute acts of intimidation, violence or harassment, but the peaceful expression of opinions should not be criminalised. Indeed, a PSPO exclusion zone could well be illegal: the primary legislation on PSPOs requires councils to ‘have particular regard to the rights of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly’, to ensure that these rights are…

Richmond Council’s abortion clinic PSPO: Manifesto Club response

Richmond council is planning a PSPO targeting anti-abortion protests outside an abortion clinic on Rosslyn Road. Here is the Manifesto Club response to this proposal. Dear Richmond Council, The Manifesto Club would like to register its opposition to your proposed text for a PSPO, on the grounds that the text is too broad, and fails to target harmful or nuisance detrimental behaviour. We specifically object to the prohibition on Protesting, namely engaging in any act of approval or disapproval or attempted act of approval or disapproval, with respect to issues related to abortion services, by any means, including, without limitation, graphic, verbal…

Campaigners told to get insurance to hand out leaflets in Woking

The Manifesto Club is supporting members of the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, who have been prevented from handing out leaflets in Woking Town Centre. They were told that they must gain prior approval from the council, and submit the leaflets they wish to distribute. They were also told that they must get public liability insurance before distributing leaflets. Both of these requests are based on the council’s Public Realm Usage Policy. Both are also entirely unjustified, and have no legal basis. Members of the group wrote a letter to Woking News, outlining their position (see the letter here). We wrote a letter to…

Birmingham to ban microphones in the city centre

If this PSPO goes though it will be a crime to protest with megaphones in Birmingham city centre. It will also be a crime to play violin, acoustic guitar or flute with amplification. That is, the city centre – including the law courts, police station, and council house – will be an area within which amplification of all kinds is prohibited. The council says it has been ‘inundated’ with complaints about noise: I would like to know how many complaints they have received. What’s more likely is that such measures represent the official view that any spontaneous expressions of life in public…

Poppies – you can’t be for them, or against them

On Armistice day there was the depressingly familiar story of the banning of poppy wearers – most prominently including footballers, but also in a Blackpool shop, and in Derry airport. Yet in another case, two youths were charged with incitement to hatred, for allegedly burning a poppy and posting a video of the event on Facebook. So one cannot be for poppies – and what they represent – or against them. It seems that what is banned is not a particular opinion, but any expression of views at all. The only inoffensive person is one who keeps their opinions to themselves.