Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Critical Mass: officially legal!

Three years back, at a London Critical Mass which I attended, the Met gave out some nasty little leaflets informing us that what we were doing was illegal. Apparently, Critical Mass constituted a procession, and since the organisers didn't inform the police of the approximate number of attendees and the route the procession was going to take, we were doing something illegal. Now, this was pretty flawed logic in the first place. In point of fact, if they were right, only the organisers were doing something illegal. The fact that CM has no organisers and no route had apparently also passed the author of the leaflet by.

Still, it made us nervous. There have been too many cases of conflicts between the police and the Mass. New York has a particularly nasty record, including a couple of cases of mass arrests. We didn't want to see our fun and positive ride turned into a tense standoff with police. I'd have been tempted to leave their claims unanswered to underline their stupidity, but somebody stepped up to the mark and a friendly action commenced.

Friendly actions are meant to prove a point of law one way or another amicably and without damages. The judgement is by long custom considered final. The judgement came down in our favour - it was a procession, but it had been running so long that it was now customary. The Met threw their toys out of the pram, hired the best silk money can buy, and appealed. This was, to say the least, rather unsporting.

Now, years later, we have an even better judgement in our favour. The House of Lords have handed down a judgement that not only is the London mass customary, but anybody starting a similar event around the country is acting within the law. The Met were slapped for trying to force a 'draconian' reading onto an old law.

I'll be raising a glass on Friday evening :D

BBC Article
Full judgement

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