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Thatcher's Funeral: World Elites, 'Death Parties'... Rubber Bullets?

Police debate how to handle both 'pomp and circumstance' and public protest

- Jon Queally, staff writer

People gather during a 'party' to celebrate the death of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in London. (Photo: Getty images)As 10 Downing Street issued invitations for next week's funeral for former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, police and security forces in the UK are debating how to handle the expected presence of those who will mark the occasion with public celebrations, a form of final protest against the 'Iron Lady's' legacy of neoliberal policies and political contempt for the common good.

The Guardian reports concern at the highest levels about providing full military honors "to such a divisive figure."

"The sheer scale of the funeral was made clear on Thursday," the newspaper reports, "when No 10 announced that world leaders, including all surviving US presidents, would be invited. A dress code, including 'Full Day Ceremonial without swords' and 'Morning Dress (Black Waistcoat and Black Tie) / dark suit', will be included in the invitations."

But not all who lived under Thatcher's government are strapping on their ceremonial garb to honor the deceased Baroness. Instead, ahead of the funeral, many are gathering with champagne with plans to exult in the wake of her demise.

With 'death parties' planned for this weekend, and protests expected during next Wednesday's procession, the police in London announced that though they will protect the rights of those who wish to mourn Thatcher, they "have no plans" to employ harsh tactics—such as water cannons or rubber bullets—to disrupt the protests likely to arise.

As the Independent reports:

Ian Bone, founder of Class War, the now defunct group which first called for a party to mark Mrs Thatcher's death in 1994, said that the parties would go on regardless of police tactics.

He said: “If they try to stop it, it will just take place as near as possible to Trafalgar Square. If they block one road, we will go up another. If they decide to close Trafalgar Square down, we will head up the Strand. They can block off whatever they like and it will happen in the streets round about,”

He added that he believed the disruption to the former Prime Minister's funeral would be minimal but was being blown out of proportion to provide an excuse to shut down Saturday night's events.

He said: “I know of no one who is planning to hold any type of protest on Wednesday. I think they are trying to big that up in order to crack down on Saturday.

”No one knows how many are coming to Trafalgar Square, I think it has taken the authorities by surprise. I don't think they knew about it, I think the police thought it would be just 30 or 40 of the usual anarchist suspects. It is only later that they realised it would be much bigger.“

Still, one asks whether the funeral is the appropriate venue to protest, even if the the policies of Thatcher were highly abbhorent? According to journalist and historian Dave Zirin, the time immediately following the death of "a powerful public figure" like Thatcher "is when the halo becomes permanently affixed to their head." Citing Ronald Reagan's death, he argues:

When Ronald Reagan passed away, a massive right wing machine went into motion aimed at removing him from all criticism. The Democrats certainly didn't challenge this interpretation of history and now according to polls, people under 25 would elect Reagan over President Obama, even though Reagan's ideas remain deeply unpopular. To put it crudely, the political battle over someone's memory is a political battle over policy. In Thatcher's case, if we gloss over her history of supporting tyrants, we are doomed to repeat them.

And addressing the predictable claim that celebrating the death of an individual is disrespectful and uncivil, the Guardian's Glenn Greenwald argues that "demand for respectful silence in the wake of a public figure's death is not just misguided but dangerous." He continues:

That one should not speak ill of the dead is arguably appropriate when a private person dies, but it is wildly inappropriate for the death of a controversial public figure, particularly one who wielded significant influence and political power. "Respecting the grief" of Thatcher's family members is appropriate if one is friends with them or attends a wake they organize, but the protocols are fundamentally different when it comes to public discourse about the person's life and political acts.

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