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March 31, 2013

Thousands take to streets protesting \’ratbag\’s Bedroom Tax

Thousands take to streets protesting ‘ratbag’s Bedroom Tax

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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Protester at Edinburgh’s anti ‘bedroom-tax’ demonstration.

Protesters assembling around the modern art in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh with Jenners department store in the background.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Demonstrations took place across the UK over the holiday weekend, echoing the message personally delivered to Iain Duncan Smith at a Capita-sponsored talk last week. Chants of “Axe, axe, axe the bedroom tax” could be clearly heard throughout Edinburgh’s demonstration. At the end of his minute-long tirade at the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Willie Black labelled Duncan Smith a “ratbag”; several people turned up with this printed on their tee shirts.

Wikinews photographed the march from Edinburgh’s St. Andrew’s Square to the Scottish Parliament. Various estimates put the number in-attendance between 1,200 and 1,600.

Other protests took place in London, with an estimated 1,000 at Trafalgar Square and Downing street. Glasgow saw around 2,500 take to the streets. Those demonstrating equated the package of changes that see benefit rises at a below-inflation 1%, and housing benefit cut by 14% for those with one spare room, 25% if they have two or more spare rooms, with the ‘poll tax’ which saw riots in England during Margaret Thatcher’s time as Prime Minister.

Head of the UK’s National Housing Federation David Orr commented: “It’s bad policy, it’s bad economics, it’s bad for hundreds of thousands of ordinary people whose lives will be made difficult for no benefit — and I think it’s about to become profoundly bad politics.”

With the policy coming into effect now, protesters are intent on a “can’t pay, won’t pay” civil disobedience campaign.

Images from the Edinburgh protest

Panoramic shot of the protesters gathering outside the Scottish Parliament.
Image: Brian McNeil.

There was a widespread belief amonst the protesters that the cuts being imposed by Westminster are the upper-class attempting to reassert themselves.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Protesters gathering in Edinburgh’s St. Andrew’s Square.
Image: Brian McNeil.

One protester’s hand-made signs demands rent controls.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The ‘Yes’ campaign for Scottish independence attended.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Some Edinburgh members of the UNISON union joined the march.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Grim Reaper puts in an appearance at parliament.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The Scottish Green Party‘s banner arriving at Parliament.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Protesters setting off from St. Andrew’s Square, marching to the Scottish Parliament.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Police, who gave an on-the-spot estimate of 1,200 at Parliament, prepare to close streets for the march.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Protesters walking out of St. Andrew’s Square, with wheelchair user’s sign reading “Do you want my carer to sleep in my bed?”
Image: Brian McNeil.

Marchers line up whilst press talk to police in-attendance.
Image: Brian McNeil.

“Axe the Tax”, a popular slogan and chant during the march.
Image: Brian McNeil.

St John’s Episcopal Church, at Edinburgh’s West-End, has a mural skewering the tax with a religious theme.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Many disabled people face benefit cuts over a spare bedroom a carer may sleep in a few nights each week.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The march heads down towards Princes Street.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Princes Street, with the Scott Monument in the background.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The head of the march passing the £310-a-night Balmoral Hotel
Image: Brian McNeil.

The march waits as the last people join from St. Andrew’s Square.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Press, foreground, photographing protesters sitting in the road.
Image: Brian McNeil.

More join the sit-down protest.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The march moves up onto Regent Road, which skirts the city’s Calton Hill.
Image: Brian McNeil.

View of the march from the foot of the steps to the City Observatory.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The march towards the Scottish Parliament with the city skyline as a backdrop.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The march around Calton Hill passes the Dugald Stewart Monument.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Slogans and visuals on placards equate David Cameron with Margaret Thatcher.
Image: Brian McNeil.

There is genuine anger behind some of the messages aimed at Westminster, by people who feel they are being penalised to enrich bankers and the country’s richest.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Pro-Scottish independence supporters arriving at parliament; many feel the current UK government does not represent Scotland, which returned only on Tory MP at the last election.
Image: Brian McNeil.

The lead marchers stopped several times to allow people to catch up, but some gaps between groups were noticeable when arriving at the Parliament.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Passing the gates to Holyrood Palace.
Amongst the chants during the march were “They say cutback, we say fight back.”, “Tory, tory tory, scum, scum, scum!” and “We won’t pay your bedroom tax!”
Image: Brian McNeil.

All ages took part in the march to the Scottish Parliament.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Many see the bedroom tax as a policy which would not be in-place were the country independent.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Edinburgh’s James Connolly society arriving at the Parliament.
Image: Brian McNeil.

A small section of the crowd assembled at the Scottish Parliament.
Image: Brian McNeil.

Occupy protesters rub shoulders with ‘Yes’ campaign supporters, observed by part of the contingent of Lothian and Borders Police in attendance.
Image: Brian McNeil.



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December 24, 2012

Scottish Midlothian car crash kills three

Scottish Midlothian car crash kills three

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Monday, December 24, 2012

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Two cars have been involved in a road traffic accident in the Scottish Lothian and Borders region, causing three fatalities and sending three to hospital. The incident occurred on the A68 road approximately 1.5 miles south of the Midlothian village of Pathhead when a Škoda Octavia and a Nissan Note travelling in opposite directions collided at approximately 0730 UTC today.

The Nissan, which was carrying five occupants, overturned and came to rest on its roof. Three male Buddhist monks who sat in the back of the car died at the site of the crash. The female driver of the vehicle managed to get out of the vehicle herself but another male passenger in the front of the car had to be cut free by fire service members. The two front-seat passengers as well as the male driver of the Škoda were hospitalised at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, although none of their injuries are considered likely to be fatal.

“This is a tragic incident,” Inspector Simon Bradshaw of Lothian and Borders Police said, “and we are currently in the process of carrying out inquiries in order to establish the full circumstances of the collision.” The A68 road close to the location of the accident was temporarily closed to allow police to investigate the incident, with traffic redirected to the B6370 road via the town of Gorebridge. The road has since reopened.



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Scottish Borders car crash kills three

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Monday, December 24, 2012

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Two cars have been involved in a road traffic accident in the Scottish Lothian and Borders region, causing three fatalities and sending three to hospital. The incident occurred on the A68 road approximately 1.5 miles south of the Midlothian village of Pathhead when a Škoda Octavia and a Nissan Note travelling in opposite directions collided at approximately 0730 UTC today.

The Nissan, which was carrying five occupants, overturned and came to rest on its roof. Three male Buddhist monks who sat in the back of the car died at the site of the crash. The female driver of the vehicle managed to get out of the vehicle herself but another male passenger in the front of the car had to be cut free by fire service members. The two front-seat passengers as well as the male driver of the Škoda were hospitalised at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, although none of their injuries are considered likely to be fatal.

“This is a tragic incident,” Inspector Simon Bradshaw of Lothian and Borders Police said, “and we are currently in the process of carrying out inquiries in order to establish the full circumstances of the collision.” The A68 road close to the location of the accident was temporarily closed to allow police to investigate the incident, with traffic redirected to the B6370 road via the town of Gorebridge. The road has since reopened.



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November 6, 2012

Officer dies in Glasgow police station shooting incident

Officer dies in Glasgow police station shooting incident

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Tuesday, November 6, 2012

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A police officer has died after an incident involving a gun at a police station in Glasgow. It is thought no-one else was involved in the incident at Baird Street police station in Sighthill where an ambulance was called at 1100 UTC yesterday morning. It is thought a firearms unit is based at the station.

An armed police officer in the U.K.
Image: KRoock74.

Strathclyde police said that an investigation was taking place into the cause of the officer’s death and that a report will be sent to the procurator fiscal. They said: “As in accordance with ACPOS guidelines, officers from an independent force (Lothian and Borders Police) have been appointed to oversee the investigation. No further information will be provided until family members have been informed.”

Assistant Chief Constable Bernard Higgins stated: “It is with great sadness that I have to tell you that a serving Strathclyde Police officer died today, Monday, 5 November, in an incident where a firearm was discharged at Baird Street police office. No details of the officer involved will be released until family members have been informed. … Our thoughts are with the officer’s family and friends at this difficult time.”

Scottish Police Federation chairman Brian Docherty said: “We can confirm that one of our colleagues has died following a firearms incident in Baird Street police station this morning. It is too early to speculate as to the circumstances surrounding the tragic death and our thoughts turn immediately to his family who have lost their loved one and colleagues who have lost a friend.”

Earlier this year, two British police officers were shot dead after responding to a reported burglary. Police constables Fiona Bone and Nicola Hughes were killed in the Hattersley area near Manchester.



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August 18, 2011

Scots report crime using Facebook

Scots report crime using Facebook – Wikinews, the free news source

Scots report crime using Facebook

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Thursday, August 18, 2011

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Facebook has revealed a new system in conjunction with the Scottish Lothian and Borders Police whereby users can report criminal activity and concerns to police using the social networking site.

The “Made From Crime” initiative allows Internet users to anonymously report their concerns to police on a dedicated Facebook page that is being established to direct people with tip-offs to Crimestoppers. Police will also be able to send mass Bluetooth messages to mobile phones at public events like football matches to encourage the public to report crime.

Designed to make use of the Proceeds of Crime Act, it will be the first of its kind in Scotland with the Scottish government, the Crown Office, and Procurator Services constituting the foundation of the service. Their backing will allow officers to seize assets that have been purchased through criminal activity.

Assistant Chief Constable Iain Livingstone of Lothian and Borders Police has stated to the public: “We know there are people living beyond their means on the proceeds of crime, be it through the purchase of flash cars, designer clothes or expensive jewellery, and that communities are suffering from the side effects of drug dealing, violence and other associated crimes”.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill states that Lothian and Borders Police is tackling the problem of dirty money that has been obtained through criminal activity in a serious matter. Constable Livingstone has encouraged this, appealing to local communities to provide information and come forth immediately either to Crimestoppers or the Lothian and Borders Police.

Solicitor General Lesley Thomson QC has affirmed that they will take a robust approach to those that profit from crime, using the vast powers at their disposal though the Proceeds of Crime Act.The act has resulted in more than £41 million (US$67.09 million, €46.66 million) in seizures from crooks. It has been utilised in new community projects in Edinburgh, the Lothians and throughout Scotland.



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August 5, 2010

Three children die in Edinburgh house fire

Three children die in Edinburgh house fire

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Police say that the fire may not have caused the deaths, and are treating them as suspicious (pictured: Lothian and Borders Police headquarters in Edinburgh)
Image: Richard Webb.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A criminal investigation has begun in Edinburgh after three children were killed in a fire at a three storey house just before 3pm yesterday.

Firefighters were called to the house on Slateford Road in Scotland’s capital city, for a reported gas explosion, and they put out a small fire in an upstairs room. However, there was no evidence of an explosion and none of the surrounding houses were damaged. Three young children, two boys and a girl, were found to have died at the scene. Police are treating the deaths as suspicious.

A woman, believed to be the children’s mother, was found injured on the ground in front of the house and there are reports that witnesses saw her jump from a third floor balcony. She was taken for treatment at the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary.

In a statement the Lothian and Borders Police said: “The investigation into the cause of this tragedy is in its early stages.” However, the police have also said that there was no fault with the gas supply.

Post-mortem examinations are due to be carried out on the children’s bodies. Police said no identities would be released until these were completed.

A police spokesperson said: “A criminal investigation is currently under way and nothing more can be said at this time into the circumstances which led to their deaths.”

The mother of the three children, now named as eight year olds Gianluca and Augustino and five year old Cecilia Riggi, is to be questioned by police after details emerged that suggest it is unlikely the children died in the fire.

Neighbours have reported that they heard screaming from inside the house and one source said that when they found the victims lying dead in the living room it was “a horrific scene.” However reports that the children died before the fire broke out have not been confirmed by official sources and only reports by neighbours and others at the scene have indicated this.

Police refused to confirm reports that the children had died before the fire broke out, and say that the results of the post-mortems would help them decide whether to launch a murder inquiry into the incident.

According to Detective Superintendent Allan Jones the mother, Theresa Riggi, and her three children had been living in Edinburgh for little over a month since they were reported missing from their home in Skene, Aberdeenshire last month. Mrs Riggi is currently in a stable condition in hospital and Det Supt Jones said they are hoping to speak to her on Thursday. He said: “She’s not in a position to speak to us at the moment.”

The children were reportedly at the centre of a custody battle between Mrs Riggi and the children’s father, Pasquale Riggi. He has been informed and is helping police to determine the last movements of the family. He is not a suspect in the investigation. Det Supt Jones reported: “He’s heartbroken but he’s very composed. He realizes he holds a lot of central information that we need. We’re conscious of the trauma he’s gone through.”

Theresa Riggi and her husband were going through divorce proceedings and she was due to appear at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Tuesday. She apparently did not attend the hearing. At that time the judge was told that her whereabouts were once again unknown.

The Judge, Lady Clark, granted a search warrant for Mrs Riggi and said that social workers should supervise the children, applying for child protection orders if necessary, after Mr Riggi’s counsel asked for an order to safeguard the children’s interests.

The children were allegedly educated at home so the Social Work Department had had no contact with the family since they moved to Scotland from the US.

It is believed that Mrs Riggi may have turned on the gas, and that a neighbour smelled the fumes and called the emergency services, which may have led to the original report of a gas explosion.

Tributes of flowers have been left close to the scene with cards of sympathy and condolences.

Update on 7 August: Mother charged with murder

Lothian and Borders Police have released a statement confirming that the post mortems of Gianluca, Augustino and Cecilia have been concluded. Following this statement a warrant was issued and Theresa Riggi was charged with murder.

A spokesman for Lothian and Borders Police said: “A 46-year-old woman has been arrested and charged with murder in connection with the petition warrant which was granted earlier today,”

“Due to the medical condition of the accused, it is not at this time known when she will appear in court.”

In an earlier statement Mr. Riggi released a statement saying: “Our family is struggling to come to terms with the immense and tragic loss of three beautiful children.

‘Thanks to all who have offered such great comfort and support.

‘We request that the media respect our privacy at this difficult time.”



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December 23, 2009

UK Wikinews Shorts: December 23, 2009

UK Wikinews Shorts: December 23, 2009 – Wikinews, the free news source

UK Wikinews Shorts: December 23, 2009

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A compilation of brief news reports for Wednesday, December 23, 2009.

Help Wikinews! Contribute to Wikinews by expanding these briefs or add a new one.


Map of United Kingdom with Northern Ireland highlighted in dark blue.

Two-year-old child in Northern Ireland dies of H1N1 swine flu virus

The Department of Health (DHSSPS) in Northern Ireland has announced that a child aged two has died after falling victim to the H1N1 swine flu virus. The toddler had underlying health problems. The death brings the total number of people from Northern Ireland that have died as a result of having the disease to 17, also including one person who was in Spain and one person who was in England at the times of their deaths.

Michael McGimpsey, health minister of Northern Ireland, expressed his sympathy. “Sadly, we have been notified of the death of a two-year-old child who was confirmed as having swine flu,” he stated. “The child had underlying medical conditions. I would like to express my deepest sympathy to the family at this very sad time for them.”

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Woman killed in collision with ambulance in Staffordshire, England

Map of England with Staffordshire highlighted in red.

An elderly woman has been killed in a car collision physically involving an ambulance in Staffordshire, England. The incident occurred when the woman and her female passenger, travelling in a Ford Ka, crashed into a West Midlands Ambulance Service vehicle that was flashing its full emergency lights. The crash occurred at approximately 15.15 GMT at the junction of Quarry Hills Lane and Tamworth Road. An air ambulance subsequently arrived at the scene and took the 72-year-old passenger to a hospital; she suffered included damage to her chest and her head. The driver of the Ford was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. It is believed that icy road conditions were not a factor of the collision.

A spokesperson for Staffordshire Police said that : “the woman driver of the Ka was pronounced dead at the scene. Her female passenger was airlifted to Selly Oak Hospital in Birmingham, suffering from head and chest injuries. The male driver of the ambulance vehicle was taken to Stafford Hospital after suffering minor injuries.”

Assistant Chief Ambulance Officer Keith Prior from West Midlands Ambulance Service also spoke about the incident. “All our thoughts are with the families of all of those involved in this tragic crash. We have launched an internal investigation to examine the circumstances of this incident,” said Prior. “We have already been working with our colleagues in Staffordshire Police and this will continue.”

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90-year-old man dies after car crash in Northern Ireland

A man aged 90 has died after being involved in a road traffic accident in Northern Ireland. The accident, which occurred at 1030 GMT on Sunday, involved two vehicles and took place on the Doagh Road in the suburb of Newtownabbey in County Antrim. The man died the following day from the injuries he sustained in the accident. At the request of his family, the police have not yet publically identified the gentleman.

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Man dies while carrying child in railway station in Edinburgh, Scotland

Map of Scotland with Edinburgh highlighted in dark blue.

A man has died while carrying his child in a railway station in Edinburgh, Scotland. The man, who was aged 47, was carrying his young daughter in Waverley Station in Edinburgh when he suddenly either collapsed or slipped near a taxi rank at approximately 0900 GMT on Wednesday; his head impacted with a parked car. The man, who came from the city of Dundee, suffered from injuries to his head as a result of the impact. After being treated by staff at the scene, he was taken to hospital where he later died as a result of his injuries.

A spokesperson for Network Rail has released a statement about the incident. “We can confirm that a man has died following a tragic incident at Waverley station this morning,” said the spokesperson. “We are co-operating fully with the police investigation into this matter.”

A post-mortem examination is to be held to try and determine the cause of the man’s death. The police have yet to have identified him publically, however his next of kin have been notified. The British Transport Police have now launched an investigation. “About 0920 GMT on Wednesday, 23 December 2009, a man in his 40s appeared to fall as he walked on the concourse of Edinburgh Waverley station,” said a spokesperson for them. “He was taken by ambulance to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary, where he later died. Inquiries are ongoing into the circumstances surrounding his death, although at this stage there do not appear to be any suspicious circumstances. It is anticipated that a post mortem will take place in due course to establish his cause of death and full report will be submitted to the local procurator fiscal by Lothian and Borders Police.”

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July 12, 2009

Firefighter killed while tackling pub blaze in Edinburgh, Scotland

Firefighter killed while tackling pub blaze in Edinburgh, Scotland

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

A Scottish firefighter has died while helping to put out a fire at a pub in Edinburgh. Ewan Williamson, 35, died when the floor collapsed of the multi-story building. The Balmoral Bar, where the fire broke out was situated in the basement of the building. A second firefighter was injured but later released from hospital.

Chief fire officer Brian Allaway said two firefighters were injured by a collapse of an internal floor. He added “tragically and despite the best efforts of all his colleagues at the incident one of those firefighters lost his life” He continued to offer the thoughts of “every single firefighter” to the family.

The Lothian and Borders Fire and Rescue Service were called at 00:38 BST with reports of a severe fire at the pub. More than 20 people had to be rescued by firefighters including a baby. A full investigation is due to take place. The police commented saying it was too early to determine whether there was anything suspicious with the blaze.

The fire was still alight on Sunday morning with around 70 firefighters continuing to tackle the blaze.



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January 28, 2009

Scottish politician to face perjury trial

Filed under: Europe,Lothian and Borders,Scotland,United Kingdom — admin @ 5:00 am

Scottish politician to face perjury trial

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

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Tommy Sheridan
Image: Dominique Natanson.

Former member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) Tommy Sheridan and his wife are to be tried for perjury.

The charges stem from Tommy and Gail Sheridan’s successful £200,000 defamation suit against British tabloid newspaper The News of the World in 2006, during which the judge said that conflicting evidence meant some witnesses were perjuring themselves. This led to an investigation by Lothian and Borders Police. The newspaper had accused Tommy Sheridan of having an affair.

Sheridan established the Scottish Socialist Alliance in 1996, which became the Scottish Socialist Party and stood in the 1999 elections to the newly re-established Scottish Parliament. Sheridan was elected as MSP for Glasgow. He was re-elected in 2003 but the party split in 2006 — with some members giving evidence against Sheridan in his court case — and Sheridan and another MSP, Rosemary Byrne, formed a new party, Solidarity. However, this party — and the remaining Scottish Socialists — lost all their seats in the 2007 election.

After leaving Holyrood, Sheridan hosted a chat show at the Edinburgh fringe and had a talk radio show before joining the latest series of Channel 4‘s Celebrity Big Brother. He is now studying law at the University of Strathclyde.



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May 31, 2008

UK group Liberty, Edinburgh city council on Scientology \’cult\’ signs

UK group Liberty, Edinburgh city council on Scientology ‘cult’ signs

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Saturday, May 31, 2008

The placard used by the boy, and the written warning issued by City of London Police
Image: nickstone333.

The United Kingdom-based human rights group Liberty and the City of Edinburgh Council in Scotland have weighed in on the right of critics to call Scientology a “cult” at peaceful protests. After a 15-year-old boy refused to remove a sign calling Scientology a “cult” at a May 10 protest in London, City of London Police confiscated his sign and issued him a court summons. On May 23 the Crown Prosecution Service stated that there would be no prosecution of the boy. Liberty is investigating the actions of the City of London Police, and told The Guardian Wednesday that they may decide to lodge a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission. The City Council of Edinburgh released a statement earlier this week saying they had no objections to the word “cult” being used on signs at anti-Scientology protests.

Individuals from the group Anonymous have held monthly international protests against the Church of Scientology since February, as part of the anti-Scientology movement Project Chanology. The Project Chanology movement began when the Church of Scientology attempted to get a leaked Scientology promotional video featuring Tom Cruise removed from websites YouTube and Gawker.com.

Members of Anonymous were motivated by the actions of the Church of Scientology, and bombarded Scientology websites and were successful in taking some of them down. Anonymous later changed tactics towards legal measures, and held international protests against Scientology on February 10, March 15, April 12, and most recently May 10. Localized protests have also been held in various cities in between the international protests.

Cquote1.svg I am going to fight this and not take it down because I believe in freedom of speech. Cquote2.svg

—15-year-old boy

The May 10 London protest took place near St Paul’s Cathedral at the Church of Scientology’s headquarters on Queen Victoria Street. The 15-year-old boy’s poster read: “Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult”. City of London Police approached the boy at the May 10 protest and cited section five of the Public Order Act 1986, which deals with “harassment, alarm or distress”. In response, the boy cited a 1984 judgment given by Mr. Justice Latey in the Family Division of the High Court of Justice of Her Majesty’s Courts of Justice of England and Wales, in which Latey called Scientology a “cult” and said it was “corrupt, sinister and dangerous”.

In the actual 1984 judgment made by Judge Latey, he stated: “Scientology is both immoral and socially obnoxious. […] In my judgement it is corrupt, sinister and dangerous. […] It is dangerous because it is out to capture people, especially children and impressionable young people, and indoctrinate and brainwash them so that they become the unquestioning captives and tools of the cult, withdrawn from ordinary thought, living and relationships with others.” The boy told fellow protesters he was not going to take the sign down, saying: “If I don’t take the word ‘cult’ down, here [holding up his sign], I will be either, I think, most likely arrested or [given] a summons. I am going to fight this and not take it down because I believe in freedom of speech, besides which I’m only fifteen.”

When the boy refused to take his sign down, City of London Police removed it, cited him with a court summons and informed him that the matter would be referred to the Crown Prosecution Service. The boy was the only protester who did not comply with the police requests to remove signs which referred to Scientology as a “cult”. According to The Guardian, a CPS spokesman stated that: “In consultation with the City of London police, we were asked whether the sign, which read ‘Scientology is not a religion it is a dangerous cult’, was abusive or insulting. Our advice is that it is not abusive or insulting and there is no offensiveness, as opposed to criticism, neither in the idea expressed nor in the mode of expression. No action will be taken against the individual.”

“The CPS review of the case includes advice on what action or behaviour at a demonstration might be considered to be threatening, abusive or insulting. The force’s policing of future demonstrations will reflect this advice,” said a spokeswoman for the City of London Police in a statement in The Guardian.

Cquote1.svg Curtailing people’s freedom of speech is a very serious issue and it’s important to know whether this is part of the force’s policy or a decision relating specifically to the Church of Scientology. Cquote2.svg

—Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, voiced concerns about the actions of the City of London Police, as did James Welch, legal director of Liberty. Liberty represented the 15-year-old boy to the City of London Police. Chakrabarti told The Guardian Wednesday that Liberty is looking into the matter and may file a complaint with the Independent Police Complaints Commission if it is determined that the City of London Police has a policy on appropriate wording on protest signs which relate specifically to anti-Scientology protests. Freedom of speech campaigners may also call for a judicial review of the legality of the protest guidelines of the City of London Police.

“Curtailing people’s freedom of speech is a very serious issue and it’s important to know whether this is part of the force’s policy or a decision relating specifically to the Church of Scientology. There is the possibility of a complaint to the IPCC or a judicial review,” said Chakrabarti in a statement Wednesday in The Guardian. “Some people are very easily intimidated and will be put off exercising their right to free speech by the thought that they may face court action over it. We have to defend that right and show how wrong the police were in issuing this summons.”

Cquote1.svg I understand that some of the signs you use may display the word ‘cult’ and there is no objection to this. Cquote2.svg

—County official, Edinburgh, Scotland

Protesters in Scotland that routinely gather to protest against the Church of Scientology outside the Scientology centre in South Bridge, Edinburgh contacted the City of Edinburgh Council in order to get the Council’s input on using the word “cult” on signs at anti-Scientology protests.

Cquote1.svg The leadership shown by the City of Edinburgh Council’s decision to protect free speech is a positive step. Cquote2.svg

—Jen Corlew, media director at Liberty

In a statement in The Scotsman on Tuesday, an Edinburgh County official said: “I understand that some of the signs you use may display the word ‘cult’ and there is no objection to this.” The Scotsman reported that a representative for the Lothian and Borders Police said that the Scotland police force had “no issue” with the use of the word “cult” in a peaceful protest. A representative for Liberty spoke positively of the position taken by the City of Edinburgh Council. “The leadership shown by the City of Edinburgh Council’s decision to protect free speech is a positive step,” said Liberty media director Jen Corlew in a statement Tuesday in The Scotsman.

The City of London Police has faced controversy in the past for its close association with the Church of Scientology. When the City of London Scientology building opened in 2006, City of London Chief Superintendent Kevin Hurley praised Scientology in an appearance as guest speaker at the building’s opening ceremony. Ken Stewart, another of the City of London’s chief superintendents, has also appeared in a video praising Scientology. According to The Guardian over 20 officers for the City of London Police have accepted gifts from the Church of Scientology including tickets to film premieres, lunches and concerts at police premises.

Unlike the City of London Police, the Metropolitan Police Service (the territorial police force responsible for Greater London excluding the City of London) has not raised an issue with protesters using placards with similar wording at protests against Scientology, according to The Guardian and Londonist.

Actor Jason Beghe, with Tory Christman, Andreas Heldal-Lund and Mark Bunker.
Image: Andreas Heldal-Lund of Operation Clambake.

Film and television actor Jason Beghe visited a protest organized by members of Project Chanology on Thursday in New York, New York. Beghe joined Scientology in 1994, and gave US$1 million to the Church of Scientology over the course of his membership with the organization. He told Roger Friedman of FOX News that Scientology head David Miscavige called him “the poster boy for Scientology”. Beghe appeared in promotional videos for Scientology in 2005. In April 2008 he left Scientology, and contacted Scientology critic Andreas Heldal-Lund, who put him in touch with another critic Mark Bunker. Bunker arranged an interview with Beghe, which was uploaded to Bunker’s YouTube account on April 7. The posted video is a 3-minute portion of a larger 3-hour interview with Beghe about his criticism of Scientology. In the video Beghe states: “Scientology is destructive and a rip-off. … It’s very, very dangerous for your spiritual, psychological, mental, emotional health and evolution.”

Beghe participated in the May 10 international protests against the Church of Scientology, attending the protest in Los Angeles. He met with fellow Scientology critic and former Scientologist Lawrence Wollersheim and spoke with members of Project Chanology.

Approximately 50 people attended the Thursday protest outside the Church of Scientology of New York building on East 46th Street in New York City. Beghe met with individuals from the group Anonymous and expressed support for what they were doing. “What you guys are doing means so much to me, and so much to these people … It just kills me. It makes me want to cry. You don’t know what kind of good you’re doing,” said Beghe to the protesters.

Protesters in New York City at the March 15, 2008 Project Chanology international protest against Scientology
Image: Rankun.

After meeting with the protesters, Beghe walked across the street to the Church of Scientology building but was blocked from entering by three men standing outside the building. Beghe told The Village Voice that he believes these individuals were not Scientologists but hired private security guards. He said to the guards “I paid a million dollars, and I want to go in,” but was told to go back across the street. When he rejoined the protesters on the other side of the street he called the Church of Scientology asking to speak to the president of the Church of Scientology of New York, John Carmichael, but said “they hung up”. According to a blog post at The Village Voice website, Carmichael was caught on video at an anti-Scientology protest held in New York City on Monday telling a protester: “Let me tell you this: I smell pussy,” and then addressed an individual protester and said: “You in particular.” According to The Village Voice blog post, the incident occurred after protesters prevented Carmichael from capturing images of them and identifying them, by shining a flashlight at his camera.

Each of the Project Chanology international protests against Scientology has had a theme: the February protest called attention to the birthday of Lisa McPherson, who died under controversial circumstances while under the care of Scientology, the March protest was arranged to take place two days after Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard’s birthday, the April protest highlighted the Church of Scientology’s disconnection policy, and the May protest highlighted the Scientology practice of “Fair Game” and took place one day after the anniversary of the publication of Hubbard’s book Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health. Another international protest is planned for June 14, and will highlight the Church of Scientology’s elite “Sea Organization” or “Sea Org”.



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Sources

Wikinews
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Wikipedia Learn more about Project Chanology and Freedom of speech on Wikipedia.
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