Mark Thomas plans a punishing protest against Bush
A new crop of fly-posters and stickers has started to appear on bus shelters and in public toilets,
There is no one on this planet more hated than George W Bush. This is not hyperbole; this is merely a statement of fact. Run through the list of things you think you hate: 118 numbers; David Blaine, Big Brother, Teenage Big Brother, the probability of pre-school Big Brother where a Geordie voice gently intones, "Day eight and the housemates are attempting solids"; Diane Abbott's choice of school; the tabloid Independent; Julie Burchill on a bad day; people who have "bought to let"; the railways; Jarvis; arms dealers; and Tony Blair. Mix that lot up, add a dash of Geoff Hoon, grate some Saddam Hussein in, just a splash of Paul Burrell and lightly smear the rim with a squeeze of Chris Tarrant. And your hate cocktail would pale in the glare of one shot of neat Bush.
You can gauge how much Bush is despised by the protests that are planned for his state visit later this month. A new crop of fly-posters and stickers has started to appear on walls, bus shelters and in public toilets, urging people to the demonstration in Trafalgar Square on 20 November. Some of them are the expected "Fight imperialism, end the US occupation" type, others urge people to "Bukkake Bush at Buckingham Palace". I need hardly add that this is the kind of non-violent direct action that Gandhi would not approve of. Indeed, for those of us with pleasant and decent minds, the thought of Martin Luther King leading freedom bukkake riders into action while singing "We Shall Overcome" is an unwelcome one.
However, while the Bukkake Bush plan is not a realistic course of protest (what with the vagaries of aim, the shortcomings of range, the problems of group co-ordination, not to mention the question of gender exclusivity), it does indicate a level of anger that goes way beyond that felt towards the average politician. So great is this hatred for Bush that it can be measured in units of Thatchers. Which is a lot of hate.
The police are preparing for the protests around the US president's visit. But it is the behaviour of the police that will be in the dock. The right to protest has come under continuous fire from Labour, and the police have embraced each new law with vigour.
When Jack Straw was at the Home Office, he introduced a Terrorism Act that made wearing a T-shirt that indicated support for the Kurdish Workers' Party a crime that carried a sentence of six months in prison. You might think that this law has not been used, but you'd be wrong. Last year, I gave evidence at a trial of a Kurdish man whose only crime was wearing just such a T-shirt.
The police have a history of attacking the democratic right to protest. Jiang Zemin visited Buckingham Palace in 1999. As China's president, Jiang was an unelected dictator whose regime is routinely criticised for human rights abuses and has a penchant for invading other countries, creating weapons of mass destruction and buying arms from the UK. That he should visit the Queen was not unexpected. Dining with murderous dictators and opening Parliament are the nearest she gets to a formal constitutional job description. That is her gig. She gets to be Queen but she has to make small talk with an evil shit over a bit of roast quail while kicking Philip under the table for moaning about the wogs.
As Zemin was driven along the Mall to Buckingham Palace, the police banned the demonstrators who were lining the route from holding up placards and Tibetan flags (Tibet being occupied by China), in case it upset the man. And although the British police stopped short of using electro-shock batons on the Buddhist monks present, the Chinese president must have seen this suppression of the right to protest and, being reminded of home, felt a warm glow and mused: "Not the level of brutality I'm accustomed to, but it's a nice thought."
After the visit, rather than face embarrassing legal action from the Free Tibet Campaign, the police made an unprecedented admission that they had broken the law.
The use of Section 44 of the anti-terror laws on peace protesters at the arms fair in east London in September meant cops stopped and searched anyone they thought might be a terrorist or had a suspicious set of dreadlocks. Add this to the kind of racism seen on the BBC's Panorama and it is easy to see why the cops are back in the dock.
Ah, folk will say, the police have a very difficult job to do. In which case, I would add that they are not making the job any easier by wearing Klu Klux Klan masks while trying to do it.
The police don't have to join in the demonstrations, but they really would improve their image if, on the week of Bush's visit, they all phoned in sick.
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