Do or Die

An article from Do or Die Issue 9. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 59-60.

Hooligans K.O.ed?

On July 28th 2000 the new Football (Disorder) Act received Royal Assent, making it from draft to law in less than three weeks. The 'emergency' legislation was drafted in response to English fans' behaviour during the Euro 2000 championship in June. The bill was rushed through the Commons and Lords in time for it to become law before the next English away game in Paris in September.

Germany and the Netherlands have both recently introduced similar anti-hooligan legislation that can also be used against activists. As in Britain these laws were rushed through using Euro 2000 as an excuse. In Germany, the anti-hooligan law was used to stop some people getting to the protests in Prague by taking away passports for the duration of the protests. In the Netherlands, two existing laws were amended. The definition of 'leader' of a criminal organisation has been changed so that you are now a 'leader' if you show any initiative. 'Leaders' of a criminal organisation get a third more punishment. In addition, the potential four and a half year prison sentence for 'committing violence against property or persons' now also applies to anyone who has made any 'significant contribution' to the violence. This can mean to go deliberately to a place where violence will be used, to 'call for or organise' violence, or even giving assistance to so-called 'riot tourists' by, for example, giving them food.

Among the powers arrayed against British footie fans in the new Football (Disorder) Act are new banning orders stopping you going to football matches for up to a maximum of 10 years. You can be banned for up to 3 years without ever having been found guilty of anything. Magistrates can issue these banning orders forcing people to surrender their passports if a police officer believes the subject may have at any time or in any place contributed to any "violence or disorder", whether football-related or not. "Violence" includes threatening and abusive behaviour, even "displaying any writing" considered to be threatening or abusive.

Judging from the laws in Germany and the Netherlands, there is the possibility that this legislation or adapted pieces of it could be used against activists. The precedent has now been set for the criminalisation and restriction of people who may contribute to disorder in another country. We may not think we have much in common with football hooligans, but that's not necessarily the case... For example, the job of the police Public Order Intelligence Unit (POIU) is to monitor both direct action protesters and football hooligans. Once someone asked one of the POIU team why they lumped us together like that and the cop pointed out that from their point of view we're very similar to football hooligans - we organise in a loose decentralised network of friends and travel around in groups, meeting up with other groups in order to cause trouble and smash things up all over the country and abroad. When put like that, you have to admit the cop had a point....

Source: Statewatch, Vol. 10, No. 3/4 June 2000.
Statewatch, PO Box 1516, London N16 0EW, UK.

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