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Con-Dems put squeeze on democratic rights
Documentary photographer Marc Vallée recently debated new emergency counter-terrorism stop and search powers on Radio 4's Today programme with chief constable Andy Trotter of the Association of Chief Police Officers. Below Marc makes the case why socialists, anti-cuts campaigners and trade unionists should be concerned.
Do your remember Section 44? Labour's draconian stop and search power that the European Court of Human Rights ruled against. Well it's back and has a new name.
In March the coalition government laid down a written ministerial statement to both houses of Parliament. The Orwellian sounding emergency measure: "Prevention And Suppression Of Terrorism - The Terrorism Act 2000 (Remedial) Order 2011" brought back stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act 2000.
The bottom line is that the police asked for the powers and the Conservatives, with support from the 'civil liberties' loving Liberal Democrats, gleefully gave it to them.
Home Secretary Theresa May said that, "given the current threat environment" she had "concluded that the police do need the powers more quickly" and that "the most appropriate way of meeting the legal and operational requirements concerning the counter-terrorism stop and search powers exercisable without reasonable suspicion is to make a remedial order" in the "interests of national security".
The remedial order replaced Sections 44 to 47 of the Terrorism Act 2000 with the new Section 47A.
Under Section 47A a "constable in uniform" will have the power "to stop a pedestrian" in the specified area and to search them and "anything carried by them".
The timing should not go unnoticed, indiscriminate stop and search powers on the ground are a useful tool for the state. Especially when the state is confronted by strikes, protests and demonstrations against the enforced transfer of billions of pounds from the public sector to the private sector and with cuts in jobs and services, all in the name of cutting the deficit.
My trade union, the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), condemned the new emergency powers. Photographers have been at the sharp end of stop and search powers. The union has campaigned against the threats from the state and harassment of NUJ members whose only 'crime' has been to document the social and political fall-out created by government policies.
For the economic elite the view is a simple one, any photographer or journalist that gives the oxygen of publicity to those that fight cuts in jobs and services is fair game.
For socialists, anti-cuts campaigners and trade unionists defending hard-earned democratic rights - the right to freedom of assembly and association, freedom of expression and press freedom - should go hand in hand with the wider fight to defend jobs and services, the right to have a home and food on the table.
In The Socialist 11 May 2011:
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party workplace news and analysis
Socialist Party election analysis
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news and analysis
Socialist Party reviews