Faced with mounting unrest and unwilling to offer reforms, democratic governments are rolling back traditional rights
May 4, 2015 2:00AM ET
by Willie Osterweil @WilbotOsterman
On March 26, without much fanfare or attention from U.S. media, the Spanish government ended freedom of assembly. In the face of popular opposition (80 percent of Spaniards oppose it), the upper house passed the Citizens’ Security Law. Under the provision, which goes into effect on July 1, police will have the discretionary ability to hand out fines up to $650,000 to “unauthorized” demonstrators who protest near a transport hub or nuclear power plant. They will be allowed to issue fines of up to $30,000 for taking pictures of police during protest, failing to show police ID, or just gathering in an unauthorized way near government buildings.
The law doesn’t technically outlaw protest, but it’s hard to see what difference that makes in practice. Imagine if the NYPD, without judicial oversight, could give $650,000 fines to every Black Lives Matter protester participating in a die-in at Grand Central. Never mind that they could never pay: Would anyone have come back day after day, racking up millions of dollars more in fines?
Spain is only the latest “democracy” to consign freedom of assembly to the dustbin. While earlier eras of protest and riot sometimes wrested concessions from the state, today the government’s default response is to implement increasingly draconian laws against the public exercise of democracy. It raises the question: How many rights must be abrogated before a liberal democracy becomes a police state?
In Quebec, where student strikes against austerity once again disrupt civil society, marches are being declared illegal before they’ve even begun. At the height of the last wave of student strikes in 2012, the Quebec legislature passed Bill 78, which made pickets and unauthorized gatherings of over 50 people illegal, and punished violations with fines of up to $5,000 for individuals and $125,000 for organizations. Similar fines are once again imposed on protesters.
Last October, a new law was passed in Turkey allowing police to search demonstrators and their homes without warrants or even grounds for suspicion, a much looser definition and harsher punishment for resisting arrest, and making covering your face at a protest or shouting particular slogans crimes punishable by years of jail time. This February in London police forced climate protest organizers to hire private security for marshaling a rally, making protesting not a free public right but an expensive private service.
Complete story at - Countries Around World Revoke Freedom of Assembly | Al Jazeera America
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