Costs of democracy

29 10 2010

I’ve tried to avoid posting about this because it’s such a contentious issue, but this most recent letter in the Argus, and the comments it incited, is difficult to leave without response.

Now first off- the post itself- is about the accuracy, or lack thereof, in the original article posted by the paper, and the letter to that effect by one of the local Conservative Councillors (Dawn Barnett).  I have to say that I agree- the article isn’t particularly well balanced, nor does it seek to derive both sides of the argument.  What got to me though wasn’t the post, but the commentary- all about whether the actions of Smash EDO (both past and present) were justifiable.

For me, this completely misses the point, and aggravates me considerably.  I remember clearly seeing the news board outside my local Mulberry’s read: “Smash EDO policing bill to top £1m.”  Personally, instantly, I wanted to re-write that board to read: “Cost of right to protest £1m.”

Why not do it Mastercard?

Cost of policing: £1m, cost of free speech: priceless.

I hope people don’t misinterpret this post- for me the entire point is that the actions of Smash EDO are not the issue– what is fundamental is that a group is using its legal right to protest.  That legal right is fundamental to liberty and democracy, and as such is beyond price.

Certainly Smash EDO’s attitudes and the consequences of how they chose to protest can be criticised and debated, as can the choices and attitudes of the police.  I just think it’s unfortunate that people are portraying negatively something citizens of a democracy must have access to- even people we don’t agree with.