Government reaction to Saturday’s planned march for peace in London puts us all in a very dangerous place

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As the Guardian notes this morning:

The Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, has defied calls for a ban on a pro-Palestinian march through London on Armistice Day as he insisted on the independence of his force amid intense government pressure to act.

In a statement in which he acknowledged the demands for him to stop Saturday's procession, Rowley insisted there was currently insufficient intelligence that there would be a risk of serious public disorder.

This needs unpacking.

First, the law is initially on Mark Rowley's side: he has to decide if there is a threat from a march and ask for a ban.

However, the Home Office can overrule him if they think he has failed to act and a ban is required.

The Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is apparently demanding that the Home Office act and use the army to enforce their position, which appears to be a fairly extreme position.

Meanwhile, the government has had a COBRA meeting (which simply means relevant ministers met in Cabinet Office Briefing Room A) to discuss what they see as the security implications of Saturday's planned march, which goes nowhere near the Cenotaph despite Tory rhetoric claiming that it will.

So, what is really happening here?

First, a peaceful march is planned. A non-provocative route has been chosen.

Second, some who wish to cause trouble - from across the political spectrum - will undoubtedly use the occasion to do so.

Third, the police obviously think that they can contain that trouble from whoever it comes.

Fourth, the Home Secretary, whose sole goal in life would appear to be the sowing of division, thinks that this march must be banned to provoke conflict in society.

Fifth, a pathetically weak prime minister has appeased her with a COBRA meeting, seemingly wholly unnecessarily.

And so, sixth, it is highly likely that we will see the executive take a hand in decisions on routine policing matters over the next few days in a manner that suggests the end of police autonomy and the imposition of autocratic political policing to achieve party political goals.

Of all these issues, the sixth is by far the most important. The police have already got sufficient problems with being accepted as impartial by many in society. If their role becomes overtly political - as Rowley is very obviously trying to stop, and which Braverman wants - confidence in the force should disappear because it will no longer represent policing as we have known it for nearly 200 years.

We are unambiguously on the road to fascism. A big test of how far we are down that road is being played out this week with consequences that have enormous significance. It's free speech, the right to peaceful protest in the cause of peace, and the future of supposedly independent policing that are all at stake. The significance of that cannot be overstated.

I expect the march to be banned.

I expect Labour to do nothing about it.

We are in a dangerous place.

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