There has been an outraged response to the decision to prevent demonstrations immediately outside the Iraq war inquiry when Tony Blair is questioned tomorrow (29 January).
A large number of demonstrators are expected at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre when the former Prime Minister is questioned. But they have been told that they cannot protest on the grass right outside the Centre, even though demonstrations have taken place there throughout the inquiry.
The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) described the decision as “disgraceful”, insisting that it was an attempt “to prevent peaceful protest”.
The police declared that the Centre is “private land” and has the right to restrict access, but CND say that the Centre is operated by a publicly-owned Government Executive Agency.
CND and the Stop the War Coalition have planned a day-long nonviolent demonstration. They say that they had negotiated with police over many days and received assurances that the police were happy to facilitate a protest directly outside the venue.
“The police have stated they have no security objections to our vigil being held outside the inquiry,” said CND chair Kate Hudson, “We can only assume this is an attempt to protect Tony Blair from the overwhelming anti-war sentiment that exists in this country”.
She added, “The vast majority of Britons are still angry he took us to war on a lie - he must not be allowed to ignore the public yet again."
Meanwhile, the writer George Monbiot has started a fund to pay for a reward for anyone who attempts to arrest Tony Blair for war crimes.
“At this stage the arrests will be largely symbolic, though they are likely to have great political resonance,” he explained in his Guardian column, “But I hope as pressure builds up and the crime of aggression is adopted by the courts, these attempts will help to press governments to prosecute”.
George Monbiot previously attempted to arrest John Bolton, a member of George Bush’s government, when he visited the Hay-on-Wye literary festival in 2008.