Parliament Square, became Britain’s first official roundabout in 1926 as well as the home of Brain Haw. Brian Haw has been protesting outside of Parliament Square against the Iraq war since 2nd of June 2001. In October 2002, following attempts by government officials to remove him, he won a major case in the High Court, in which the judge ruled that he was exercising his right to freedom of speech in Parliament Square. This outright acknowledgement of citizens’ freedom of speech is currently being challenged by the governments’ latest security legislation – the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005, among other policies, prohibits any group demonstrations or individual demonstrators (even peaceful silent protests) within a half-mile zone around Westminster. The half-mile area covers Parliament, Whitehall, Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, the Middlesex Guildhall, New Scotland Yard, and the Home Office. It also covers a sliver of land on the other bank of the River Thames, including County Hall, the Jubilee Gardens, St Thomas' Hospital and the London Eye. Furthermore, it extends police powers to fine and arrest individuals partaking in demonstrations without an official police permit. Supporters of the law claim it is required to ensure of safety of residents and workers around the area, as well as limit “anti-social” behaviour.
Regardless of individual beliefs on the Iraq War, nuclear power, fox hunting, taxation or any other subject, as well as ones conviction to participate in a demonstration or not; freedom of speech that does not harm or hinder is unequivocal! Placing "exclusion zones" on these rights is the start of a slippery road - before you know it Christmas carols won't be allowed within Parliament Square as the government strives to establish an "open secure multi-cultural secular society".
Prime Minister Tony Blair stated on 7 April 2002, "When I pass protestors every day at Downing Street... I may not like what they call me, but I thank God they can. That's called freedom."
It is a matter of serious Dark Matter Politics when a country sanctioning and promoting principles of freedom of speech around the world, fails to fully support them for its own citizens.