The homecoming of the Royal Anglian Regiment should have been a celebration for friends & families & those who support the troops on their return to the UK after their second tour in Iraq in the last couple of years. To a large extent, it was exactly that, a welcome home. That was until a small group of extremist Muslims were allowed to protest within sight & hearing of the troops & those who wished to support them.
Apparently, it’s OK to wave banners accusing the troops of being the “Butchers of Basra” & proclaiming “Anglian Troops Go To Hell”, and to shout offensive remarks & abuse at the troops as they march past. It’s not, apparently, conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace, or a public order offence. The Anglians were providing advice & training to the Iraqi Army during their tour not bayoneting babies in the back streets.
If you get so wound up by the protest that you shout abuse back but use a term which someone in a office somwhere has deemed to be instantly arrestable – for instance a ‘racist’ comment – then you can find yourself locked up & on a charge of racially aggravated offensive behaviour or simple public order. Two members of the crowd who turned out to support the troops went a little over the top & got themselves arrested for precisely those offences. One has been given an Ã‚Â£80 disorder penalty, the other has been charged with a racial offence.
This is the thing about racially aggravated or indeed any ‘hate’ crime. You can be as abusive and offensive as you want and get away with itÃ‚Â but if you add a derogatory racial or gay term or say ‘go back home’ then you are liable to instant arrest & charge. It matters not the slightest jot what the effect on the recipient of the abuse is. I have no doubts that someone who accuses someone else of murdering babies & wanting them to die in the fires of hell isn’t going to be particularly upset if someone shouts some abuse at them, pots & kettles & all that, but only one group gets the extra protection from the law not afforded to everyone else.
If those Muslims, who are members of a group set up as a direct result of their previous group being outlawed by the government, want to protest about the war in Iraq, there is a time & a place, fortunately, we live in a society where we allow them to do that rather than stone them to death or shoot them in the back of the head or gas them much as the country the seek to support. Their time & a place isn’t on a welcome home parade where those of us who wish to show our support would like the freedom to do so without the interference of a small minority group with their own racist agenda.