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Ahead of Trump Visit, Organizers Accuse UK Police of Attempting to 'Gag Protesters'

More than a dozen activists and members of parliament slammed British police for "curtailing the right to protest and putting the health and safety of demonstrators in jeopardy."

Thousands of protesters with placards take part in a demonstration against U.S. President Donald Trump on Whitehall on February 4, 2017 in London. (Photo: Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Just 48 hours ahead of massive nationwide protests in the United Kingdom against U.S. President Donald Trump's official visit on Friday, more than a dozen organizers and members of parliament accused the British police of "curtailing the right to protest and putting the health and safety of demonstrators in jeopardy" by denying groups permission to set up a stage and sound system at the main protest assembly point in London.

"This arbitrary cancellation by the police can only mean some of the many voices speaking out against Trump will be denied a platform."
—U.K. protest organizers

"Friday will witness one of the biggest and most vibrant demonstrations in recent British history," the organizers and lawmakers declared in an open letter on Wednesday. "While it is reasonable for the police to put in place measures for safety, it would be unprecedented for such a major demonstration to be denied permission for a stage."

"Having stages and speakers is a vital part of the right to public assembly—it provides the political content for rallies and processions, and means that organizers have a means to communicate with attendees," the letter adds.

As Common Dreams reported on Monday, civil liberties groups have raised concerns that British police would attempt to illegally clamp down on the right to protest in an effort to "appease" the notoriously thin-skinned Trump.

Organizers are concerned that by refusing to grant groups permission to use a stage, the British government is attempting to "gag protesters."

"Not having a stage at the starting point is likely to seriously impede the ability of organizers to direct the crowds. This is a major safety concern given the high turnout and the fact that there are two marches taking place on the day, which will require complex stewarding arrangements. This arbitrary cancellation by the police can only mean some of the many voices speaking out against Trump will be denied a platform. We urge you to do everything in your power to remedy this situation."

Read the organizers' full statement:

Friday will witness one of the biggest and most vibrant demonstrations in recent British history.

However, at the last minute, the Metropolitan Police have  denied permission to have a stage at the meeting point of the demonstration.

While it is reasonable for the police to put in place measures for safety, it would be unprecedented for such a major demonstration to be denied permission for a stage. Having stages and speakers is a vital part of the right to public assembly—it provides the political content for rallies and processions, and means that organisers have a means to communicate with attendees.

There is no good reason why Together Against Trump should be denied a stage. Plans for the stage, in consultation with the police, were well advanced [sic] the assembly point, with fully qualified and risk assessed staff and procedures in place. The list of speakers has been drawn up.  

Not having a stage at the starting point is likely to seriously impede the ability of organisers to direct the crowds. This is a major safety concern given the high turnout and the fact that there are two marches taking place on the day, which will require complex stewarding arrangements. This arbitrary cancellation by the police can only mean some of the many voices speaking out against Trump will be denied a platform.

We urge you to do everything in your power to remedy this situation,

Signed:
Owen Jones, writer
Len McCluskey, Unite
Kerry Abel, Abortion Rights Campaign
Dr Hafis Alkarmi, The Palestinian Forum in Britain
Dr Anas Altikriti, President, The Muslim Association of Britain
Dr Daud Abdullah, The British Muslim Initiative
Laura Parker, national coordinator at Momentum
Lindsey German, Stop the War Coalition
Sam Fairbairn, People's Assembly
Manuel Cortes, TSSA 
Sabby Dahlu, Stand Up to Racism
Michael Chessum, co-chief steward, Stop Trump
Chris Nineham, co-chief steward, Stand Up to Trump
Claire James, Campaign Against Climate Change
Alex Kenny, National Education Union
David Lammy MP
Stephen Saxby
Dave Ward, Communication Workers Union
Chris Williamson MP

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