The government has been helping itself to a few more draconian powers, it seems. The London Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Act was passed in 2006, partly, it was claimed, to halt the “over-commercialisation” of the games. However, on closer inspection, Section 19(4) of the Act could be used to prohibit protest placards as “[t]he regulations may apply in respect of advertising of any kind including in particular – (a) advertising of a non-commercial nature, and (b) announcements or notices of any kind.” Critics have said the powers are so broad that they could potentially give private contractors the right to forcibly enter people’s homes and seize materials, given that Section 22 of the Act allows a “constable or enforcement officer” to “enter land or premises” where they believe such an advert is being shown or produced. It further allows for the use of “reasonable force” and for materials to be destroyed.
The power to force entry would, however, require a court warrant, which should, of course, secure residents from the ad-busting encroachments of Her Maj’s finest, should it not?
COURTING THE COMMUNITY
Earlier this year, the caring souls at Brighton and Hove City Council Housing Services received several calls from a disabled council tenant with learning difficulties about the fact that her boiler wasn’t working. They didn’t deign to phone her back, of course. The calls grew more and more desperate until, over the weekend, they received a tearful call saying that the state of her accommodation made her want to kill herself.
The helpful housing workers still didn’t see fit to return her calls. Instead, they contacted Sussex Police, who promptly arrested the woman for ‘harassment’. In the process, the police decided a couple more charges were in order and added obstruction and assaulting a police officer to her charge sheet.
At Brighton Magistrates Court, after the judge had been played the distressed messages left with Housing Services, the council tenant received a conditional discharge and was given an Anti-Social Behaviour Order making her liable for arrest should she contact the council again. The boiler, as far as Corporate Watch knows, remains unfixed.
FANCY BEING MICROWAVED?
‘Non-lethal’, or maybe-a-tiny-bit-lethal, crowd control is the paradise which our benevolent rulers seek; it’s the plat du jour in the bastions of western ‘democracy’. And it seems the authorities get much of their inspiration for controlling the disaffected public from the world of kitchen appliances. First, we had ‘kettling’, next up could be ‘microwaving’.
In a recent edition, the New Scientist reported that the Pentagon is developing crowd-control techniques with the aid of a microwave pain-infliction system fired from aircraft. “The device is an extension of [the Pentagon’s] controversial Active Denial System which uses microwaves to heat the surface of the skin, creating a painful sensation without burning that strongly motivates the target to flee,” - and so much more discreet than the strong motivations of yore: guns, truncheons and jack-boots.
The new version of ADS will have a compact, electronically-steered, airborne antenna “capable of generating multiple beams, each of which can be aimed while on the move.” The US air force’s annual funding for the system has been increased from $2m to $10m, and the Pentagon’s Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate called for the ADS to be upgraded despite the legal issues and safety fears that have halted its deployment. It’s hardly surprising to learn that the earlier model ADS hospitalised a US airman with second degree burns and was shown, in a study by physicist Jurgen Altmann, to “cause serious burns at levels not far above those required to repel people.” The ‘safety’ of the upgrade is equally a contradiction in terms – with its beam fired on the move the likelihood of collateral damage seems increased and a study has shown that the intensity of the beam does not correlate with the distance from which it is fired thus estimating intensity may be extremely difficult. But then that is what crowd control is all about – collateral damage and brute force.