THE BIG ONE
2,486 DEMO'S WITHIN THE SOCPA ZONE
IN ONE DAY!
The Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 was recently introduced by the UK government. Slipped into this new law at section 132 there is a clause which bans protest within a zone stretching around a mile from Parliament, a map of the zone is here. If anyone wishes to protest within this zone, they must apply for police permission, one week in advance, after which the police can impose conditions such as the number of people allowed, duration and size of the protest. They may of course simply refuse permission.
Since the introduction of this new law the police have been using it widely to clamp down upon any freedom of speech within the designated area. Choice arrests include Steve Jago who committed the crime of having three copies of Vanity Fair Magazine on him, with a political article in it, also a lady who was threatened with arrest for having a cake with PEACE written in the icing.
Obviously scared of freedom of speech, our government have decided that we must now ask their permission to protest against them. They are obviously feeling the heat, and need to be surrounded by non-dissenting voices.
Comedian Mark Thomas has been organising Mass Lone Demos within the SOCPA zone regularly since July 2006. In them people apply for permission to have a demonstration on their own within the zone. It just so happens that lots and lots of people apply to have their own demos at the same time. Causing a paperwork and logistical nightmare for the police, in an attempt to highlight the ridiculousness of the law.
We were asked to get involved in a project called "The Big One" where he was going to attempt to break the World Record for the highest number of demonstrations within a day.
The plan was to get 10 teams of ten people together, with each person doing twenty protests each within one day. Therefore a total of 2000 protests in one day, beating the usual entire annual total by nearly double!
Application forms for the Police to process.
The Space Hijackers formed one of the ten teams for the event, and met up one evening, to process our paperwork and apply for our individual protests. The plan for the day was to have everyone meet for their first and last protests of the day at Parliament Square, then dissapear off in various directions before meeting back up again. Being a group of friends, our protests often 'just happened' to bump into each other during the day. The forms were handed in two weeks in advance and we all waited eagerly for our acceptance letters from the police, which arrived with only a day to spare (that must have been fun work!
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"Look at Him" & "Stop Looking at Me"
"Make everyone an artist!"
The Institute Of Contemporary Arts
As you can imagine, given the warped brains of the people who make up the Space Hijackers, the protests we applied for permission for, were not your usual run of the mill complaints. With secret agent cunning, we had also realised that rather than bringing 20 placards along to protest with, white boards and markers were a much more sensible option.
Our protests ranged from the absurd to the insane, calling for Big Ben's clock face to be turned digital, Parliament Square to be made into a circle, the Thames to be filled with Tizer, and Humans and Fish to co-exist peacefully. Obviously the point of the day was to highlight the insane nature of protest law in the UK, rather than attempting to make serious political points to the passers by.
However speaking of passers by, many had heard of the SOCPA laws and were in full support of our efforts to ridicule the laws.
"Stop painting your walls white, it's boring"
The Institute Of Contemporary Art
"More French Import Programs"
Channel 4 offices
"Less hot air, more action"
"£5 for a photo with an official protestor"
The day itself was glorious, and our eager protestors wore out the soles on their shoes walking around the zone to the locations of all their different protests (obviously stopping off for a pint or two en route). Eventually we made our way back to Parliament Square for the finale protest, at 5:30pm.
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"Give the river police jetski's NOW!"
"Leave Brian Alone! You Big Bullies"
100 protestors in the square
The day was very good fun, with little police harassment. Eventually when the final count came in it turned out that 2486 protests had been applied for and acted upon in the day. Hopefully if this trend continues, the police will get annoyed enough to demand the government change the rules on the zone. With enough public pressure, perhaps even the government will repeal this obscure, oppressive and paranoid law.
Many thanks to Agent Invisible Parsnip for the photo's.
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