It will take a day or two for a balanced judgement to be made of the outcome of the May Day protests in London but one thing has been clear from the start. Many responsible, adult people have been denied the right to make their point peacefully because of incoherent extremists who think that a day out smashing windows and defacing statues is an acceptable alternative to ordered demonstration and reasoned lobbying. We shall doubtless hear from these anarchists that police tactics prevented them from putting their message over in the way they wanted. But there is a long established practice in Britain whereby even the most abhorrent organisations – Mosley's Facsists in the 1930s for instance – are given permission to march and to have police protection provided that they agree routes and conditions in advance. Those bent on trouble this time have refused to hold such discussions with the police and have insisted instead on being able to behave as they want, where they want and when they want. The outcome was apparently a paralysis of the centre of London but also, and more significantly, a muzzling of those with something important to say. At the core of the succession of demonstrations over the past year in Seattle, Prague, Davos and Quebec City has been concern about the growth of globalisation which no government seems able or willing to contain.

Whether those who wanted to make this point in London yesterday are right or wrong is not the point. They have an entitlement to be heard and were denied this yesterday – not by government or police but by irresponsible trouble–makers whose interest in democratic process is non–existent.

Ray Fleming

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