Olympics: A taste of China

Police given powers to enter homes and tear down anti-Olympics posters during 2012 Games

July 21, 2009

Police have been handed ‘Chinese-style’ powers to enter private homes and seize political posters during the London 2012 Olympics. Little-noticed measures passed by the Government will allow officers and Olympics officials to enter homes and shops near official venues to confiscate any protest material. Breaking the rules could land offenders with a fine of up to £20,000. Civil liberties groups compared the powers to those used by the Communist Chinese government to stop political protest during the 2008 Beijing Games. Anita Coles, of Liberty, said: ‘Powers of entry should be for fighting crime, not policing poster displays. Didn’t we learn last time that the Olympics should not be about stifling free expression?’ The powers were introduced by the Olympics Act of 2006, passed by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, supposedly to preserve the monopoly of official advertisers on the London 2012 site. They would allow advertising posters or hoardings placed in shop or home to be removed. But the law has been drawn so widely that it also includes ‘non-commercial material’ – which could extend its reach to include legitimate campaign literature.

Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said: ‘This is a Government who just doesn’t understand civil liberties. They may claim these powers won’t be used but the frank truth is no one will believe them.’ Liberal Democrat spokesman Chris Huhne said: ‘This sort of police action runs the risk of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. ‘We should aim to show the Chinese that you can run a successful Olympics without cracking down on protestors and free speech.’ Scotland Yard denied it had any plans to use the powers. Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison said: ‘We have no intention of using our powers to go in and take down demonstration posters.’

But critics said that – given the powers were now law – it was impossible to predict what would happen in three years time. Campaigners said the existence of the powers was ‘dreadful’. Peter McNeil, who is against the holding of equestrian events in Greenwich Park said: ‘It’s bullying taken to another level. It’s quite appalling that this should happen in a democracy.’ The power emerged as the Home Office and police outlined the £600million security operation for the Games, which will cost more than £9billion in total. They said hundreds of flights could have to be diverted every day, with planes prevented from passing over the main venue for the London games. Olympic security chiefs said they expected to have to ‘manage’ the airspace over the Olympic Park in east London.

A senior Home Office official said: ‘We do expect there will have to be some management of the airspace. We do not expect that any airports will have to close.’ The officials said they had no evidence of a specific terror threat against the Games at the moment. But current preparations assume the terror threat level will be at ‘severe’ during the event, despite it being reduced to ‘substantial’ for the UK earlier this week. It is the lowest threat level nationwide since before the July 7 attacks in 2005. A DCMS spokesman said: ‘The advertising provisions in the London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006 are there to prevent ambush marketing and the over-commercialisation of the Games, not to prevent or restrict lawful protests. ‘The measures will only apply to areas within a few hundred metres of the London 2012 venues. The Government is currently developing detailed regulations for advertising during the Games which will enable these powers to come into effect. The Government will be consulting on the regulations in 2010.’

Source = http://www.dailymail.co.uk

Police powers for 2012 Olympics alarm critics

July 21, 2009

The government was accused tonight of giving itself draconian powers to clamp down on protests at the 2012 Olympics. Critics said the powers were so broad they would potentially give private contractors the right to forcibly enter people’s homes and seize materials. Opposition parties and civil liberties groups criticised the powers as top security officials announced plans concerned with keeping the games, to be held mostly in London, safe from terrorist attack and from “domestic extremists” and public order problems like disruptive protests. The legislation is directed at curbing advertising near the Olympic venues. A government spokesperson said the laws, passed in 2006, were meant to stop “over-commercialisation” of the games.

But civil rights campaigners are worried about several clauses in the London Olympic Games and Games Act 2006. Section 19(4) could cover protest placards, they said, as it read: “The regulations may apply in respect of advertising of any kind including in particular – (a) advertising of a non-commercial nature, and (b) announcements or notices of any kind.” Section 22 allows a “constable or enforcement officer” to “enter land or premises” where they believe such an advert is being shown or produced. It allows for materials to be destroyed, and for the use of “reasonable force”. The power to force entry requires a court warrant. Causing still further concern is a section granting the powers to an enforcement officer appointed by Olympic Delivery Authority. Anita Coles, policy officer for Liberty, said: “This goes much further than protecting the Olympic logo for commercial use. Regulations could ban signs urging boycotts of sponsors with sweat shops. Then private contractors designated by the Olympic authority could enter homes and other premises in the vicinity, seizing or destroying private property.”

The Liberal Democrats’ home affairs spokesman, Chris Huhne, said: “This sort of police action runs the risk of using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. The police should take a deep breath and read the excellent report from the chief inspector of constabulary on the tolerance of protest. We should aim to show the Chinese that you can run a successful Olympics without cracking down on protesters and free speech.” Chris Grayling, the shadow home secretary, said: “This is a government who just doesn’t understand civil liberties – they may claim these powers won’t be used but the frank truth is no one will believe them. Neither the police nor any other official should be invading people’s homes for what appear to be commercial reasons.”

Source = http://www.guardian.co.uk

London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act 2006

2006 CHAPTER 12

An Act to make provision in connection with the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games that are to take place in London in the year 2012; to amend the Olympic Symbol etc. (Protection) Act 1995; and for connected purposes.

[30th March 2006]

Be it enacted by the Queen’s most Excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, as follows:—

——————————————–

Section 22 – Enforcement: power of entry

(1) A constable or enforcement officer may—

(a) enter land or premises on which they reasonably believe a contravention of regulations under section 19 is occurring (whether by reason of advertising on that land or premises or by the use of that land or premises to cause an advertisement to appear elsewhere);

(b) remove, destroy, conceal or erase any infringing article;

(c) when entering land under paragraph (a), be accompanied by one or more persons for the purpose of taking action under paragraph (b);

(d) use, or authorise the use of, reasonable force for the purpose of taking action under this subsection.

(2) The power to enter land or premises may be exercised only at a time that a constable or enforcement officer thinks reasonable having regard to the nature and circumstances of the contravention of regulations under section 19.

(3) Before entering land or premises a constable or enforcement officer must take reasonable steps to—

(a) establish the identity of an owner, occupier or person responsible for the management of the land or premises or of any infringing article on the land or premises, and

(b)give any owner, occupier or responsible person identified under paragraph (a) such opportunity as seems reasonable to the constable or enforcement officer in the circumstances of the case to end the contravention of the regulations (whether by removing, destroying or concealing any infringing article or otherwise).

(4) The power to enter premises may be exercised in relation to a dwelling only in accordance with a warrant issued by a justice of the peace; and a justice of the peace may issue a warrant only if satisfied on the application of a constable or enforcement officer that—

(a) there are reasonable grounds to believe a contravention of regulations under section 19 is occurring in the dwelling or on land that can reasonably be entered only through the dwelling,

(b) the constable or enforcement officer has complied with subsection (3),

(c)the constable or enforcement officer has taken reasonable steps to give notice to persons likely to be interested of his intention to apply for a warrant, and

(d) that it is reasonable in the circumstances of the case to issue a warrant.

Source = http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2006/12

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