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Olympic crackdown: UK govt targets protests

Published time: May 11, 2012 08:21
Edited time: May 11, 2012 12:43

Crewmen standby as British Royal Navy Lynx Helicopters land on helicopter carrier HMS Ocean during security rehearsals, "Exercise Olympic Guardian", ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games in the Thames estuary, east of London, on May 4, 2012 (AFP Photo / Ben Stansall)

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The UK government is rounding on protesters ahead of this summer’s Olympics, issuing the first court order to ban an Occupy activist from the event. The unprecedented security measures for the Games have been branded as over-the-top.

The UK has seen a number of protests in recent months, against austerity cuts and the London Olympics. Demonstrations linked to the Games mainly target sponsors over questionable environmental records.

The Chairman of the London Olympic Committee Lord Coe appealed to protesters not to disrupt the Olympic torch procession as it makes its way from Land’s End to London next month.

"One man's protest can destroy someone else's dream," said Coe.

The Chairman’s plea comes off the back of a court order issued against a protester, effectively banning him from the Games.

The antisocial behavior order (ASBO) set against 29 year-old Simon Moore is the first in a preemptive crackdown against protests at the Games.

Moore is barred from coming within 100 yards of Olympic venues, homes of participants, officials or spectators and the route of the Olympic torch. Violation of the order could result in a 5-year prison sentence.

Simon Moore told RT that the legislation was being used as a pretext to curtail demonstrations against “aspects of the Games that are undemocratic or unpopular. “

He underlined that this tightening of the law will not act as a deterrent for protesters but will merely grant authorities power to punish them more severely.  

“I think it’s insane.  I think it shows the prevailing state of consciousness in our governments and the world, which is one of fear – fear and control,” said Moore to RT’s London correspondent Laura Smith.

Moore was targeted by London authorities for his participation in an Occupy movement sit-in against the construction of a basketball practice court near the Olympic park in East London. Protestors were evicted from the site after landowners won a court case against them.

Moore had previously had charges placed against him after refusing to obey a police order to vacate an Occupy camp outside St. Paul’s Cathedral.

Further fuel was added to the pre-Olympic tensions when the Home Office forbade US martial arts instructor Tim Larkin from visiting the UK on the basis that “his presence was not conducive to the public good.” British authorities believe his martial arts courses could promote vigilantism ahead of the Games.

“I have a 10 year history of coming to the UK, training thousands of people from the UK and also European clients coming into London, and have had no incidents whatsoever, and the rhetoric that’s being used is absolutely inconsistent with what I teach,” said Mr. Larkin to RT.

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Raising the roof on missile defense

The Ministry of Defense caused controversy when it announced plans to install surface to air missiles on the roofs of key buildings during the Games, a measure that has not been exercised since World War II.

Freelance journalist Brian Whelan claimed he is being forced to leave his studio flat in London’s Bow Quarter after blowing the whistle on the missile plans.

He learnt of the plans after a leaflet was posted through his letterbox one evening but claims neither he nor other residents of the area were consulted prior to the decision.

He told RT that concerns were growing over the consequences the missile stations could have on the area, with many worried that “it will make the building a target for terrorists.”

“Some people don’t want to be turned into some sort of military base; they think it will really affect their quality of life.  My big argument is that nobody consulted us, the MOD never spoke to us,” Whelan told RT.

The seemingly extreme stance taken to guarantee security ahead of the Olympics has been criticized as unnecessary and repressive. However, as the curtain rises on London 2012, UK authorities look set to tighten their already iron grip on the event.

UK Guardian journalist Esther Addly wrote in an article concerning the security legislation surrounding the London Games that they are “the most stringent restrictions ever put in place to protect sponsors' brands and broadcasting rights.”

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