Letter: GM: government vs the people

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YOUR FRONT-PAGE report "GM police to guard crop trials" (15 August) is deeply troubling. Not content to indulge in the scientific farce and creeping commercialisation of farm-scale trials, this government is effectively turning over the forces of law and order to the defence of corporate interests. Developments such as you describe, in which activists are increasingly threatened or abused by the justice system, are being facilitated by ever more repressive statutes. Ever since Margaret Thatcher's authoritarian union laws were introduced in the 1980s, civil protest, Britain's oldest democratic tradition, has been progressively criminalised.

At the end of 1998, the National Public Order Intelligence Unit was set up to track green activists and public demonstrations. Based at Scotland Yard, the unit uses information from Special Branch officers, MI5 and other sources to compile profiles of protesters and organisations considered to be "potentially troublesome". Earlier this year, Her Majesty's Inspector of Constabulary issued a report which suggested that new legislation should be introduced to prevent the "fortification process" of green campaigners and anti-road protesters constructing "battlefield bunkers" and acting in a "quasi-terrorist mode".

These developments are steadily eroding our democratic right to protest by peaceful means. This latest attack on freedom of expression is taking place just at the time when the powers of local self-determination are seeping away from communities to corporate headquarters - in other words, when the need for protest has arguably never been greater.