Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Oxford University Seeks to Deny Free Speech and Free Assembly to Animal Rights Activists: Not Only Ban them From University, but From City as Well

Let me first say that I do not accept violence in actions. In fact, I’m not alone as neither does the ALF. So, I’m not sure what the false logic of safety has to do with this draconian movement. Literally, they are taking away the rights of people to assemble and speak, based solely on their beliefs.

Second, how will they define “animal rights activist?” Would this include a person who wears a pin on their lapel? Is it the vegetarian? Will they be expelled from school? If someone speaks up for the case of animal rights n the philosophy class will the enforcers come in and throw the person off of the campus? See, this is bigger than they would think. You’d think a school like Oxford would understand the scope of such measures. Unfortunately though, with big money, this is a sign of things to come in the UK and the US.

Article:

University seeks to ban animal rights activists from 'whole of Oxford'

http://www.24dash.com/content/news/

viewNews.php?navID=7&newsID=4685

Publisher: Jon Land

Oxford University today applied to extend the scope of its existing injunction against animal rights activists to cover the whole city.

The hearing before Mr Justice Holland at London's High Court is the latest skirmish in the battle over the new biomedical research laboratory site in South Parks Road.

The current injunction allows a weekly demonstration against the construction of the £20 million project but places a ban on the use of amplified noise or cameras within a designated exclusion zone.

Charles Flint QC said that there was no intention to prevent lawful peaceful protests or the permitted monthly demonstration which was next due on April 22.

But, the proposed extension was necessary to protect persons working at the university and those associated with it from intimidation and harassment.

"The university premises are spread out throughout Oxford and there is no logical line to draw because of the width of the class of persons who are targeted in the defendants' campaign.

"It necessarily follows that it is not possible to identify particular buildings or colleges.

"The whole of the university is the target of this campaign."

He said that the judge would see from video evidence that the defendants had "clearly flouted" orders previously made.

"We also rely very strongly on the fact that the leaders of this campaign have publicly threatened criminal damage and direct action against those associated with the university, so it is in those circumstances in which the university returns to court to protect its staff and students, but also other persons."

Mr Flint said that the existing boundaries meant that protesters could congregate each Thursday immediately outside the Department of Experimental Psychology, which was a particular target.

An order imposed last month prohibited them from using any "megaphone, klaxon, siren, whistle, drum or noise amplification" within the zone and also banned cameras or video cameras.

Despite this, said counsel, witness statements from people in departments all around that area testified to noise during the weekly protests, spread over four hours, and at other times.

The judge referred to the "astonishing " nature of the noise and described it as "typically self-defeating".

One statement from a person who was actually sympathetic to the campaign said that she was finding life "intolerable".

He suggested an amendment allowing for amplified noise to be limited to one hour of the protest, such as lunchtime.

Equally seriously, said Mr Flint, it was possible from the current boundaries for campaigners to observe contractors entering the site.

"It is clear that some of those engaged in this campaign are determined to find out who the contractors are and trace them so they can intimidate these companies into withdrawing."

There was also a short-term problem of the noise affecting the forthcoming examination season.

Marc Willers, counsel for two of the named defendants, said that if the noise was restricted and brought back to an acceptable level, there was no need for an extension.

He said that there had been no arrests at the designated protest site for 18 months, and suggested that it was significant that there was no evidence from the police about the need for any extension.

"What is suggested clearly goes way beyond what is necessary in this case and amounts to an unjustified and disproportionate infringement on the right to protest.

"We say that the respondents should not be prevented from continuing any peaceful procession or assembly within the city of Oxford, providing that it is a lawful exercise of their rights.

"Whenever there is a concern on the part of the police that they are exercising their rights in an unlawful fashion, then there are ample powers available to the police to ensure that public order is maintained."

The individuals covered by the injunction are: Mel Broughton; John Curtin; Robert Cogswell; Max Gastone; Robin Webb; Amanda Richards; Greg Avery and Natasha Avery plus a number of named groups.

The hearing was adjourned until tomorrow.

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