Letter: The policeman, the placard, the protest and the president

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The Independent Online
WITH reference to the cartoon by Chris Riddell (5 June), I, too, thought Tiananmen was something we should not forget. So I went to the D-Day service in Portsmouth with a personal message for Bill Clinton on a banner measuring less than a metre square.

Because he has granted 'Most Favoured Nation Trading Status' to one of the worst remaining dictatorships in the world, I felt that Bill was a little confused on the issue of democracy and needed to be reminded of a few things 'lest he forget'. My message to him read: '3/4.6.89 - China. Bill's most favoured tyrants.' OK, so it was not about D-Day, but it was about the things the veterans fought for, and what their comrades died for.

Having had my banner vetted and my details checked by the police at the war memorial, it was clear that unless Bill had a pair of binoculars, my best bet for catching his attention would be on the road far away from the service itself, where I hoped to attract the President's eye as he sped past on his way back to the harbour.

I was intercepted by an overzealous police officer, who declared my banner to be 'offensive', requisitioned it and threatened twice to arrest me.

It is not so much that the police officer arrested my banner instead of me and sent it to be detained against its will and guarded by six police officers. It is that he should consider, quite singularly, despite my request for a second opinion, that I should not exercise my right to free speech under any conditions, even when I invited him to suggest a more appropriate spot for us to stand. A small woman with knees already knocking and a piece of material on a bamboo cross hardly represents a threat to security.

It must be very reassuring for the Great British public, not to mention all those who fought and gave their lives in the Second World War for freedom and democracy, to discover that there are still such officers around to protect them (and powerful US presidents) from the evils of democratic free speech.

Isn't that precisely what the Chinese dictatorship said they were doing in Tiananmen Square?

Ms J Reeves

Havant, Hampshire

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