Dissent not allowed

Dissent not allowed

The scene that spoke loudest about the coronation was a group of dignitaries, drawn from a variety of countries that helped make up the British Empire, all singing God Save the King.

Meanwhile, nearby, those wishing to exercise dissent were being dragged away by the police to be detained at his Majesty's pleasure.

This in the country that likes to think it is the home of free speech.

In fact, the possibility to legally disagree or show dissent is rapidly being squeezed out altogether

The draconian attitudes displayed last September, when Queen Elizabeth died, were a good example. A sort of compulsory compassion was in evidence, with dissenters decidedly under threat — no space was to be allowed for other views in this freedom-loving democracy.

Then, there has been the way that direct action environmental protesters have been increasingly treated.

Routinely arrested for doing very little. A number of protesters were arrested at the cornoation for wearing Just Stop Oil T-shirts.

The fact is that if people adopt conventional means, the protest is ignored by lawmakers and the media alike. This helps drive people to other forms of protest. Disruption brings headlines.

Not to say the cause of saving the planet is not a just cause for every type of action.

The extinguishing of these basic rights has been a process underway for many years. Much of it has its origins with the Troubles in Ireland.

The British government used the threat or perceived threat of terrorism to remove most basic rights, like the rights to silence and assembly.

The Prevention of Terrorism Act brought such measures in legitimising the targeting of a whole suspect community - namely, the Irish at home and abroad.

The measures brought in under terrorist legislation were then gradually downloaded into the ordinary criminal law.

This process was then deepened and extended, when the Muslims replaced the Irish as the suspect group.

Now, the diminution of rights project has reached the point where the present government feel they can remove the final vestiges of dissent by effectively banning it. The new suspect group is anyone who disagrees.

So, there were Not My King protesters being arrested around the Coronation events.

I well remember back in the 1990s, Father Des Wilson telling me in Ballymurphy that he desperately wanted the North of Ireland to get out from under the boot of the British oppressor. He foretold then the movement toward an intolerant fascistic police state and he has been proved correct.

The problem for a government that tries to wipe out dissent is that it simply takes another form. Traditional forms of protest have been treated with contempt, so led onto direct action. If this is then trampled, some other form of dissent will materialize - often violent.

In the Irish case, it was a failure to deal with the legitimate concerns of civil rights protesters, that in the end led to violence and war.

Yet, in many ways no one should be surprised by the present course of events. How appropriate that it is Coronation of a British monarch that coincides with an attack on civil rights.

Let's not forget it was protest across the Empire that led to people's liberation. It did not come about as the result of the benevolent actions of the dysfunctional family that sits at the head of the structure of class privilege that was the British Empire and is Britain today.

The British Empire stood for repression and brutal suppression of people's. Many in government that seek to ban protest are the same individuals, who seek to propagate Empire as some great civilising force. The reality was very different. It must be hoped that as fantasy meets reality in the shape of the reign of Charles III then maybe the scales will drop from many eyes. The British might just see what that their empire really was all about, which was stifling dissent and treading on indigenous people rights - things that now all seem to have come home. Maybe they might even take some responsibility.