Last week, a man was hauled up before Doncaster Crown Court for using “offensive” language. As punishment, he was banned from attending or helping to organise any demonstration, meeting or gathering held by his political organisation or even visiting its website for 10 years. In addition, he was banned from travelling by train anywhere in the UK and from entering a mosque, meeting room, school or cultural centre….
So for unemployed 38-year-old Shane Overton, the UK has effectively become an open prison for the next 10 years, one in which he can no longer play any role in the (perfectly legal) activities he was previously engaged in with his political organisation, the English Defence League (EDL)….
On his way home following an EDL demo in Newcastle, he came across an Asian family at Doncaster rail station. Taking “exception to them speaking in Urdu”, he “used racist abuse and told them to ‘get out of our country'”. Overton certainly deserves to be challenged and chastised for his disgusting language and contemptible treatment of the family.
But while he reportedly scared the family’s children, there is no suggestion he used violence in the attack. He didn’t throw punches at these individuals; only words. If we hope to live in an open and free society, feeling free to say what we think – even if it causes offence to some – is of primary importance….
Of course, the fact we’re talking about “fascist” EDL members – as many leftie organisations will tell you – seems to mean that they shouldn’t be granted the democratic freedoms of right-thinking, middle-class liberals steeped in New Labour’s multiculturalist agenda. The members of this largely white working-class group are regarded as relics from a bygone era, Neanderthals needing to be re-educated or kept isolated from the rest of society, by force of law if necessary.
Despite the severe, illiberal punishment inflicted upon him by the courts, Shane Overton’s case has hardly registered as a blip on the radar of the national press. Perhaps if Overton had been a member of Unite Against Fascism, Hope Not Hate, or another such group there would have been outcry from people defending his civil liberties and trying to get his case noticed.
But there has been no outcry. Because left-leaning groups disagree with what Overton said, then not a word is spoken in his defence. Working-class “thugs”, it seems, don’t deserve a right to free speech. Indeed the “anti-Fascist” publication Searchlight has (ironically) shown just what an authoritarian bent it has, by claiming that it will snitch to the state if it sees him breach his ASBO: “Searchlight will be watching closely to make sure Overton stays away from future EDL events.”
Patrick Hayes at Spiked, 14 March 2011
Over at the EDL’s Facebook page its members have warmly welcomed Spiked’s support.