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More poppies, this time with The Daily Mail

October 14, 2011

UPDATE:  Like The Sun in my earlier post, The Daily Mail have chosen to report on a consultation about giving police greater powers from the “poppy burning” perspective with their story, Law that put poppy burning fanatics in the dock faces the axe.  This one is slightly more insidious than The Sun’s, because it hints at judgements on which people should and shouldn’t be allowed to voice offensive opinions.  The consultation exercise is described as follows:

The proposal is part of Home Office changes to public order laws in the wake of the summer riots, which will also see police given new powers to impose blanket curfews and to force rioters to remove face masks.

Is it?  Oh.  I thought is was a consultation, not actual Home Office changes or, at least, that’s what the Home Office website says on its Consultation on police powers to promote and maintain public order page.  ***Please note, anyone who would like to add their voice to the consultation can do so here.  There are proposals in there which should concern everybody, such as giving the police “new powers to impose curfew to prevent and control outbreaks of disorder”.***

So, since the Daily Mail has focused on the one aspect of these proposals that may, or may not, allow future “poppy burners” to walk free, who should and shouldn’t be prosecuted for “threatening, abusive or insulting’ words in public”?

A member of Muslims Against Crusades, Emdadur Choudhury, was successfully prosecuted under the Act after burning two huge poppies during the two-minute silence marking the country’s war dead last November.

Choudhury, from Bethnal Green, East London, outraged war veterans by yelling ‘British soldiers burn in hell’. He was fined £50.

Daily Mail:  [paraphrased] “Yes!  He should, definitely, and he should probably be left in prison for the rest of his natural life, too!”

What about these people?

Religious groups have also criticised the law because the police have used it to arrest harmless Christian protesters.  [Note: no attribution provided]

an Oxford University student on a night out asked a mounted police officer if he realised his horse was gay. [Note: charges dropped]

The law was also used to arrest two Christian hoteliers accused of asking a Muslim guest if she was a murderer and a terrorist because she was wearing a hijab.  [Note: Case dismissed due to unreliable witnesses]

In May 2008 City of London police charged a teenager under section 5 for demonstrating outside the Church of Scientology in central London with a placard which said: ‘Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult.’ Charges were dropped when prosecutors accepted the word cult was not insulting.

Daily Mail: [paraphrased]  “No!  It’s wrong to prosecute these people, especially those poor hoteliers.  Honestly, you can’t even ask someone if they’re a murderer and a terrorist because of the clothes they wear any more.  It’s disgusting!”

I’m not going to pass comment on any of the cases above, because that’s not within the scope of this blog, but let’s have a look at a small paragraph from the Mail article which is included towards the end:

Home Office proposals published yesterday argue serious and distressing conduct would still be prosecuted because it would be considered either abusive or threatening.

Serious and distressing conduct?  It’s not too far-fetched, then, to imagine that Emdadur Choudhury, the man who burned a couple of large paper poppies and chanted throughout the two minute silence, would still face prosecution for his actions, especially when the words of the judge who sentenced him are considered:

Sentencing him in March, District Judge Howard Riddle said: ‘The two-minute chanting, when others were observing a silence, followed by a burning of the symbol of remembrance, was a calculated and deliberate insult to the dead and those who mourn or remember them.

‘If the memory of dead soldiers is publicly insulted at a time and place where there is likely to be gathered people who have expressly attended to honour those soldiers, then the threat to public order is obvious.’

It’s evident that both The Sun and The Mail have forced a story that wasn’t about abusing soldiers, or burning poppies, into an EDL-shaped hole.  What do they make of this one, I wonder?

EDL supporters were already making posts like the one below on the main Facebook page, even before the Sun and Mail decided to bait them:

As you can see, their respect for Remembrance Day and what it represents is absolutely genuine…  Oh, wait…

Well, anyway, what better way to ensure the dignity of the occasion than by inciting some more hate, with the chance of possible violence?  Bravo, Daily Mail.  Not transparent at all.

*Please note, I do not support the disruption of Remembrance Day by any group of fanatics, be they MAC or EDL.  However, I don’t believe that misleading and sensational reporting by national ‘news’papers should be ignored as a contributing factor in any trouble that may occur.

With thanks to the lovely people on the EDL News team.

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