Events in other parts of the world have so distracted me lately that it was with some embarrassment that I had to admit, when I ran into Harry Miller at a House of Lords free speech event recently, that I had only “vaguely heard” of his Bad Law Project. Well, I’ve definitely heard about it now: the fearless free speech champion was arrested on Thursday for standing between police officers and their intended target, a military veteran of many years honourable service. The background to this event can be found here, with videos of the event (in chronological order) here, here, here and here.
The ex-soldier’s supposed crime? He had posted a rainbow pride flag reimagined as a swastika on social media. This emblem was originally designed and posted by Laurence Fox and re-posted by many others – including the Daily Mail. Its purpose was to highlight the authoritarianism of “trans-activist” groups such as Stonewall, whose influence runs so deeply in the police (and in Whitehall, local government, universities and employers) that one of the attending police officers was even, according to Harry’s report, wearing a rainbow badge saying “Hampshire Police” on it.
Harry is right to say that the rainbow flag is a political symbol, and that the police are legally obligated to be impartial (but they aren’t). Imagine the situation at some Hampshire Constabulary office where these same officers were sitting down assessing the complaint they’d apparently received about the ex-soldier’s post mocking the rainbow flag – which is a lawful statement in common law and also protected by Article 10 of the ECHR. They can hardly have been unbiased – one look down at their rainbow badges would have told them what to do. They simply cannot claim that they acted impartially when they themselves wear as insignia the very symbol being mocked.
Thus, the arrests of Harry and the military veteran look political – that is, the police are acting as the enforcement arm of a contentious political creed. A shocking statement to make, but true. Indeed, the police actions were so sinister that I began to speculate whether, in fact, by wearing these political badges while purporting to act as the police, they are themselves in breach of the Public Order Act 1936 – a statute that was intended to suppress the public marches and quasi-military pretensions of Oswald Mosley’s British Union of Fascists.
I doubt Hampshire Constabulary will be arresting themselves for a public order offence –quis custodiet ipsos custodes? – but comparisons to political police forces in totalitarian societies might not be all that hyperbolic. As Justice Julian Knowles said in Harry Miller v. College of Policing: