October 18, 2004
The Magnificent Peter Tatchell.
There are any number of things which I dislike about Peter Tatchell, apologies, but there are. I put all of those aside however, perhaps he might even be that singular hero that Diogenes searched for in vain, as a result of this, stolen from Laban Tall's blog. After this:
It's three years since elderly evangelical Christian Harry Hammond was attacked in Bournemouth for displaying a placard saying 'Stop Homosexuality - Stop Lesbianism'. The police arrested him, not his attackers, and he was later fined. He died shortly after the trial.
Liberty, and the other organisations who, had he been an apologist for terror, would have told us how important it is for democracy that the expression of unpopular views be tolerated, did zilch. Not a dog barked on the Left with the magnificent exception of Peter Tatchell.
Tatchell responds thus:
I am, for once, in wholehearted agreement with Peter Hitchens (‘Keep quiet or face arrest’ The Spectator May 11).
The conviction of Harry Hammond for displaying a placard criticising homosexuality is a grotesque misuse of the Public Order Act. His placard was offensive to gay people; that is not, however, a legitimate reason to suppress his right to protest and turn him into a criminal. Freedom of speech is so precious that it must be defended, even when we disagree with the sentiments expressed. Other than direct incitements to violence, there is no justification for criminalising words and opinions.
If Mr Hammond appeals, I would gladly testify in favour of his conviction being overturned. My sympathy for his civil rights stems from first-hand experience of the way the Public Order Act is sometimes abused. In 1994, at Wembley Arena, I protested silently and peacefully outside a rally of 6,000 islamic fundamentalists who were advocating the murder of homosexuals.
I was arrested and charged under Section 5 of the Public Order Act for displaying a placard that read ‘Islam Nazis behead and burn queers’ - a reference to the gruesome methods by which more than 4,000 lesbians and gay men have been executed in Iran since the ayatollahs came to power. The prosecution said that my placard was “threatening, abusive or insulting” to muslims at the rally and was likely to cause “harassment, alarm or distress”.
At my trial, the charge was eventually dismissed, but not before the law had been misused - as in the case of Harry Hammond - to curtail free speech and peaceful protest.
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I know this is well after the article, and even further after the incident involving Mr. Hammond. Nevertheless, for me, this is all new. I never knew of this travesty until this evening, when I read of the appalling treatment of an elderly man afflicted by disease by young members of the 'tolerant, secular left'. Nice to know that secularism has achieved freedom of conscience and egalitarian treatment for all men. Anyway, I would like to tardily express my condolences for Mr. Hammond, and my respect for Mr. Tatchell. Although my personal views are more in line with Mr. Hammond's, I believe in the freedom of speech and sentiment for ALL, and I respect Mr. Tatchell for upholding the principles behind the rights that he himself exercises.
Requiescat In Pace
Posted by: byron | Nov 2, 2006 6:17:15 AM