Think You Live In A Free Country?


First Published November 22nd 2011 on bright-green.org

Last week saw US campus police use pepper spray in an attempt to end a patently peaceful student Occupy protest at a University of California campus and New York Police violently evict the Occupy Wall Street camp in Manhattan. We have also learnt that the Metropolitan Police have been given extra powers to behave similarly and specifically to stop protest in London during next summer’s Olympic Games. Astonishingly, the Independent reports that among the new powers given to the police ahead of London 2012 is “the right to enter private homes and seize political posters”.
As if that was not enough, 10 people were convicted of trespass for carrying out what police described as a “sensible” and “non-violent” protest in Fortnum and Mason in March.

Protestors at Fortnum and Mason (Photo: The Independent)

You’d be forgiven for thinking that you’d woken up in North Korea. The UK and USA are built on freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest, right? Well it seems not. These two great democracies are the self-appointed global police force, never afraid to tell other countries where they are going wrong. We used to just take over and run these countries ourselves. It was the easiest way to do it; the natives wouldn’t have been able to do it themselves we told ourselves. More recently, we have taken to using military force – of dubious legality – to end the regimes of evil dictators who themselves use force to silence their opponents. Our latest success, of course, was Libya and we all gave ourselves a pat on the back for bringing to an end the brutal leadership of Colonel Gaddafi. The government were at great pains to point out that the reason military intervention was necessary was the way Gaddafi was treating his opponents. That they had been subjected to violence and torture for decades had apparently not concerned us previously. I was appalled to hear MP Daniel Kawczynski demand payment from the new Libyan administration the day after the death of Gaddafi. Equally distasteful were the discussions I listened to on radio that day, essentially asking how much money British companies could now make from Libya. A cynic might suggest that economic opportunity may have been the real reason behind UN intervention in Libya and it is this greed that the Occupy movement is campaigning against.

Ironic isn’t it; the government supported intervention in Libya because opponents of the regime were being treated brutally and denied their liberties. There is a strong suggestion, however, that greed may have played a part and what happens to people in the UK and US who stand up against such greed? They are met with brutality. You couldn’t make it up. Given the events of the last week, it’s time we relinquished our self-appointed role as defenders of the free world and spend some time putting our own house in order.