Saturday, 11 February 2012

Free Speech Goes AWOL

Old Holborn highlights a rather worrying development this afternoon regarding the on-going, and now getting very tedious, racism row between footballers' Luis Suarez and Patrice Evra:
Manchester United's game with Liverpool was preceded by the police confiscating several thousand copies of the Red Issue fanzine because of a spoof cut-out-and-keep poster showing a Ku Klux Klan hood on its back cover [seen above].
Leaving aside the fact that normal laws don't often apply to football fans, the Police's justification for such actions are deeply sinister indeed (my emphasis throughout):
The police's match commander, Ch Supt Mark Roberts, said:
"Officers are now seizing the fanzines and in consultation with the Crown Prosecution Service we will take appropriate action against anyone either found selling this particular fanzine or provocatively displaying the image in public.
Let's be clear that no complaints by the general public were received regarding this image, instead the Police have taken this action upon themselves:
"Officers have also been made aware of a T-shirt on sale outside the ground that is also deemed to be offensive. We are also seizing these items and anyone found wearing one will be required to remove it and hand it to police.
Deemed to be offensive by whom? Oh just the Police, so...
"At this stage we have arrested one man in relation to the T-shirts on suspicion of a racially aggravated public order offence and we will be continuing to work with the clubs to minimise the impact of the image, which we consider to be offensive.
"I have taken this cause of action as both items are potentially offensive and we cannot be in a situation where hundreds or thousands of people were displaying offensive images at a football match. The consequences of taking no action could have resulted in public order incidents inside or outside the ground."
To minimise the impact of the image? So a situation now arises where the Police can now confiscate arbitrarily, reading material because they deem it offensive even if no-one else did. And unbelievably and with deep irony the image confiscated is actually accusing Suarez, and by extension Liverpool, of racism - criticising and ridiculing his recent racist comments.

So, in a bizarre, ridiculous and very surreal twist, what is in effect anti racist material is impounded by the Police on the grounds of being potentially a racially aggravated public order offence.

One wonders what Ch Supt Mark Roberts would do if these chaps had been British.


  1. Does anyone know which legislation is being used by the police to justify the confiscation of private property?

  2. In my experience they largely make it up...

  3. So, it's theft by the police? Does that mean we can expect some brave people to file a complaint against the police and see some of them in court to answer such charges?
    The policy smacks of that used in airports to confiscate items in hand-luggage that the security staff have arbitrarily decided are dangerous. The victim has two choices: 1. hand the item over and proceed with their journey,or 2. object to the confiscation/theft and take the risk of missing their flight. I suspect the same plan was adopted at the football match. In which case, if one is to do such a thing in the future, wear the items after the match; or does that destroy the original purpose?

  4. @JiC It could be construed as theft yes, but the Police have form. The difficulty is complaining about it or perhaps more importantly getting anything done about it.