Monday, May 30, 2011

Taking Liberties It's Not Only In America

I had occasion yesterday evening to watch for the first time, the 2007 documentary Taking Liberties. Needless to say it was scary stuff, but I won't make too much of a song and dance about it, there is after all a review below.

But talking of dancing, and before moving on to Taking Liberties, this immediately below dropped into my inbox not many minutes ago.

This is America!

Arrested For Dancing?

On May28, 2011 Television host Adam Kokesh and several other activists participating in a flash-mob were arrested at the publicly-funded Thomas Jefferson Memorial. Their crime? Silently dancing, in celebration of the first amendment's champion; a clear violation of their right to free-expression. ICH

Taking Liberties
Riding in on a wave of optimism and real belief in their mantra that things can only get better, the New Labour government proceeded to enact some of the most authoritarian legislation in recent history. With fast-paced satirical style, this Bafta-nominated film shows how, in just over a decade, some rights and freedoms that took centuries to build up have been rolled back or cut away through a personal journey into the decline of civil liberties.

The 82-year-old holocaust survivor Walter Wolfgang was lifted bodily from a debate at the Labour Party conference for, as Tony Benn points out, 'rightfully' saying that Jack Straw is talking 'nonsense' about Iraq. We see a man who tries to protest against the treatment of Mr Wolfgang also set upon by security, and learn that he was later handled roughly - and that poor old Wolfgang was next detained by the police under the 2000 Terrorism Act.

We meet Moulad Sihali, an Algerian refugee. He was cleared of all charges relating to a non-existent plot to manufacture the poison ricin, but has now been made a prisoner in his own home. He's been fitted with a tracking device, is only allowed outside at certain hours - and then only within a one mile radius of his house - and is forbidden to meet anyone who hasn't been vetted by the Home Office. The specific charge against him? There isn't one.

We hear how Maya Evans, a vegan chef, and her friend the writer Milan Rai were arrested under the Serious Organised Crime and Police act for reading out the names of people who have died in Iraq and occasionally ringing a (very quiet) Buddhist bell.

Occasionally the footage is very funny. Protestors are told that if they step off the grass verge they have been crowded onto they could be arrested for blocking a public highway. They are told this by a massed group of policemen who are actually blocking the road.

There are recordings of the police intimidating grandmothers; protestors being strong-armed; 80-year-olds being dragged along on their backsides by police; Tony Blair staring on silently (in contravention of international law against complicity with torturers) as George W. Bush praises the facilities at Guantanamo Bay.

The documentary even succeeds in arousing sympathy for a group of bankers - the Natwest Three. Thanks to a 2003 treaty they were extradited to the US - for a crime they allegedly committed in Britain but that British authorities declined to prosecute due to lack of evidence. In this case, the US authorities were allowed to take these men from their homes and support networks without presenting any new data to the British government. channel 4


Episode 1 of 11

Complete film


Anonymous said...

Yes UK - an excellent post.

Himself said...

Living in the affluent and very insular little corner of the world that I do, and doing so without a television set, makes it more than easy for me to take my eye off the domestic ball.

Quite inexcusable really, firstly as a citizen, but more so as a blogger.