The Corner

After Brussels


The organisers of a “March Against Fear” planned for Sunday to mark the Brussels terror attacks said they had cancelled the event after the authorities asked them to do so because of security fears.

“We understand this request. The security of our citizens is an absolute priority. We join the authorities in proposing a delay and ask people not to come this Sunday,” the organisers said in a statement on Saturday.

The authorities earlier asked for the march to be put off, perhaps for several weeks, to allow the police to concentrate their resources on the investigation into the attacks which left 31 dead and 300 wounded…

In an earlier statement, the organisers said the march planned for Sunday was meant to show that Brussels and the country at large refused to be intimidated by terrorism and that everyone stood together.

And then there was a piece of news from the UK, explained in The Spectator by Brendan O’Neill:

After terrorist outrages like the one in Brussels, our leaders always say the same thing: ‘We must defend European values against these evil killers.’ It seems the Metropolitan Police didn’t get the memo. For they have just arrested someone — actually arrested someone — for tweeting something unpleasant about the Brussels attack, in the process trampling their coppers’ boots all over what is surely, or at least ought to be, the most important European value of all: freedom of speech.

The arrested man is one Matthew Doyle. He went viral after tweeting about a run-in he had on the day of the Brussels attacks: ‘I confronted a Muslim woman yesterday in Croydon. I asked her to explain Brussels. She said “Nothing to do with me”. A mealy mouthed reply.’

Now, if this encounter really did happen — and many have their doubts — it was a rude and ugly thing for him to have done. But to be arrested for tweeting about the incident, on suspicion of ‘inciting racial hatred’? To be locked up for hours, as Doyle has been, for saying something silly to a woman in the street and then tweeting about it? That is outrageous. The awfulness of his tweet pales into insignificance in comparison with the awfulness of his having been arrested for it. If you’re still shocked by his tweet rather than by the fact that 21st-century Britain arrests people for what they say, then your moral priorities need urgent rearranging.

As a reminder, Conservative prime minister David Cameron has been in office for nearly six years.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the charges have since been dropped:

Matthew Doyle, 46, from South Croydon, was due to appear at Camberwell Green Magistrates’ Court on Saturday.

But on Friday night the Met police said the charge had been dropped after it emerged the police officer in question had jumped the gun and charged Mr Doyle when in fact he needed CPS [Crown Prosecution Service] approval to do so.

So Doyle gets off on a technicality of sorts, but a useful message will have been sent to anyone tempted to tweet some WrongThink. In that sense his arrest will have served its purpose.

Free speech is not a “British value”.

Free speech is not a “European value”.

And all those fine words after the Charlie Hebdo murders?



The Latest