A 12 year old boy attempting to save a local youth club due to be closed by government cuts has been dragged from his classroom after his Facebook protest was spotted by anti-terror police. What’s even more shocking is this story is from December 2010…and things have only gotten worse.
How Did This Happen?
Nicky Wishart, one of the PM’s constituents in Witney, was pulled from class, threatened with arrest and informed that police were monitoring his Facebook activity. A full scale security operation has been established after the boy posted his efforts to save his local youth club on Facebook.
Nicky was attempting to hold the PM to account for his broken promises on youth centres. In 2007, while in opposition, Cameron said:
“Before people break the law, we need strong families, we need youth clubs, we need things to divert people from crime.”
Since coming to power in 2010, the Tory run Oxfordshire Council has cut £4m from 20 Youth Clubs leading to the closure of many, one of which is local to Nicky Wishart.
Instead of being allowed to express his opposition to these cuts with a peaceful protest, Nicky was intercepted by the police.
Nicky told the Mirror:
“I was taken out of class – and the policeman said, ‘Are you aware that the anti-terrorist squad are looking at your Facebook account?’ He said that if anything got out of hand, they would arrest people.
“Then he said that I could get arrested for organising it. I was frightened and wished my mum was with me.”
“Then the policeman asked, ‘Does your mum know about this?’ I said, ‘Yes, of course, she supports it.'”But the policeman carried on, ‘Are you sure your mum wants you out protesting at night?’ He was trying to scare me off – but there was no way I wasn’t going to go.”
This interview took place without Nicky’s parents present. His mother Virginia said:
“The school phoned on Monday to say the anti-terror police had been looking at his Facebook. I said it was OK for police to speak to him, but assumed I’d be there and I was appalled they interviewed him without me.”Nicky has done nothing wrong. He’s been brought up to be respectful and I support what he’s doing.”
Thames Valley police said an officer interviewed Nicky, with his head of year sitting in. A spokesman said:
“This was not to dissuade his protest but to obtain information to ensure his and others’ safety.”
Are we really to believe that hauling a child out of class, warning him that his social media activity is being monitored and threatening arrest is anything other than intimidation?
Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs), while intended to control anti-social behaviour – have in fact ended up used to get rid of those annoying little people who make noise and mess up our nice, quiet adult spaces. Some fine examples of their application include:
- A profoundly deaf 17 year old girl given an ASBO and a jail sentence for spitting in the street
- A 13 year old banned from using the word ‘grass’ in England or Wales
But new provisions in the Anti-Social Behaviour Crime and Policing Bill make matters even worse. Injunctions to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNAs) will replace ASBOS, and allow the arrest, detention and fine of anyone who might cause nuisance or annoyance to another. Where the ASBO has allowed the line between criminal behaviour and annoying behaviour to become hopelessly blurred – IPNAs will only exacerbate the problem.
The consequences of breaching an IPNA are serious. The breaching of an IPNA has been added to the conditions for securing possession of a home – meaning a 10 year old child breaching their IPNA could result in the entire family being evicted from their council house. Breaching the orders can also result in jail time for anyone over 14.
We have manifestly failed to present a coherent and effective opposition to this wave of draconian and repressive legal changes, and this is just the beginning of the consequences we will bear for this failure.
Liz Brighouse, leader of Oxfordshire council’s Labour group, says of Nicky’s treatment:
“For anti-terror police to get involved is complete madness. “This is a community-spirited 12-year-old we are talking about.”
Agreeable words. But in action, the New Labour government were ruthless in repealing hard won civil liberties with bogus anti-terror legislation.
The Anti Terrorism and Security Act 2001, the Terrorism Act 2006, and the Serious and Organised Crime and Police Act 2005 wiped out most of the civil liberties gains made in the previous four centuries.
For the full and harrowing list of just how many rights we’ve lost, please see a previous post on the matter here.
And throughout this bulldozing of the pillars of a free country, the public largely accepted the narrative that “If you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear”.
At Friday’s hour-long demo, Nicky and his sister Beth, 14, were joined by a dozen friends waved home-made placards outside the PM’s office in Witney, accompanied by two youth workers. The picket was watched over by four police officers on the opposite side of the street, while two more officers lingered nearby.
Nicky made an astute observation about the reason for this police reaction:
“All this is because Mr Cameron is our local MP and it’s a bit embarrassing for him.”
So this is how come the Coalition government ended up with the lawful right to spy on the Facebook pages of children, and drag them out of class for interrogation as a perceived security threat. And how a woman who shouted at David Cameron over his cuts to disability benefits as he turned on the Christmas Lights in Witney ended up convicted of using threatening words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress. And how nearly 200 cyclists were carted away from the London 2012 Opening Ceremony in handcuffs, arrested and held overnight to prevent the spotlight falling on the corruption attached to the Games.
It is not enough for us to get angry, we have to get involved.
Don’t get angry, get involved!
Liberty – you can keep a track on what is really happening to your civil liberties here.
Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC) – if you;re north of the border, these men and women to great work campaigning against so-called ‘anti-terror’ laws that restrict important freedoms.
Big Brother Watch – working to defend civil liberties and protect privacy.
By keeping in touch with these organisations you will remain informed, engaged and able to participate in online and on the ground protest against these regressive changes. Help make stories like this nightmares from our past, not portent of our future.