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Police withdraws partial ban on demonstration against Bush


By Shabana Bhula

London, (The Muslim News OnLine):

The Metropolitan Police have withdrawn a ban preventing demonstrators from assembling in Parliament Square. However, the ban still stands on Whitehall and the Horse Guard’s Avenue during President George Bush’s visit to the UK this weekend.

Following strong reactions from campaigners and members of the Stop the War Coalition, and from the Liberal Democrats, the protesters, who want to demonstrate against Bush’s visit to Downing Street, will now be allowed to assemble at Parliament Square.

A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police earlier told The Muslim News that, “Due to the nature of this visit, Whitehall, Parliament Square and the Horse Guard’s Avenue will be closed at 3pm in the afternoon on the 15th of June until midday on the 16th of June.”

He justified curtailing freedom of expression by saying that the reason of the ban was because of “The nature of this visit means that extra security arrangements need to be put in place.”

The turnaround is a partial victory for campaigners who, as well as protesting against Bush, have felt that they were battling to rescue their civil liberties. This follows the approval of the 42 day detention without trial Bill which was passed by the Commons on Wednesday.

However, protesters hoping to campaign at Downing Street have been left disappointed with the ban on Whitehall withstanding. In a letter to the Home Secretary, Chris Huhne, Shadow Home Secretary of the Liberal Democrats stated that “Just because the votes of these protesters cannot be bought does not mean that their voices should not be heard by those in 10 Downing Street.”

Many campaigners believe that the decision to ban protesting on Downing Street was made by the police at the request of US authorities. A spokesperson for the Metropolitan Police denied this.

The protest has been organised by the Stop the War Coalition in collaboration with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament and British Muslim Initiative. The demonstrators still intend to defy the ban to campaign against George Bush and the consequences of the “war on terror.”

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