Liverpool – Should Joe really decide who gets banned from demonstrating?

The Liverpool Echo has the story – see link above

In the wake of the appalling far right demonstration and the violence that accompanied it yesterday Liverpool City Elected Mayor Joe Anderson says he alone should decide who gets banned from demonstrating in the City.

Banning people from expressing their views, no matter how repugnant many of us may find those views, is very much a very last resort. Wanting the power to take such a decision on your own strikes me as being a worrying thing in itself. No one person should be able to take such a decision in my view.

Would the people of Liverpool want their Mayor, whomever that could be, to have such a power? It’s easy to say yes, when the demonstration is for something we personally dislike/detest but what do you say when something you want to demonstrate about gets banned because the Mayor of the day says he/she has banned the demonstrating?

Be careful what you wish for for at times in a democracy you have to allow those whom you fundamentally disagree with to have their say because if you ban them you no longer have a free society.

Free speech trumps being offended

In a free society we value free speech and that means at times we are going to be offended by our views, beliefs and opinions being challenged and insulted.

The easy answer is to say that so and so should be banned for saying what they have said but if we were banned from saying something how would we feel?

Our religious views or the lack of them is often an area where offence can be intended and indeed taken but that does not mean whose who offend should be stopped from making their views known.

The difficulty we face is our ability to take criticism that challenges our own prejudices but of course those prejudices vary markedly from person to person.

So yes, you have the right to be offended just as you have the right to be the offender. That does not of course excuse bad behaviour which is meant to hurt but some will indeed have intended just that.

For a free society to work we need to be tolerant and considerate when we know that a small minority of us will not be. But the more rules and laws we bring in to stop us being offended the less free we all become.