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New anti-protest law is an attack on democracy

Government revives 120-year-old legislation to stop campaigners targeting US military bases

New laws targeting protesters at United States military bases in Britain are being introduced without Parliament’s approval.
The Government is using legislation enacted over 120 years ago to by-pass Parliament and leave protesters open to “arrest without warrant.”

A Labour MP has branded the laws as “outrageous and undemocratic,” and said he believed they were being implemented at the behest of the United States.

The laws ban activity such as putting up a tent near the bases, using a caravan, taking photographs, and bizarre “offences” such as failing to clean up after a dog defecates.

Peace campaigners say one of the US bases targeted for the laws is currently unoccupied and unused.

They fear the laws are being introduced to prepare the ground for the use of US bases in the UK to step up deployment of unmanned drones to attack targets around the world.

The deserted base is Barford St John, nesar Milton Keynes, a few miles from RAF Croughton, which is an operational US Air Force base.

Nominally both are RAF bases, owned by the Ministry of Defence, but like dozens of other such bases in Britain they are made over to the United States military.

The by-laws are being introduced at 150 military facilities. 

The Ministry of Defence is introducing the by-laws through the Military Lands Act 1892, which enables it to by-pass Parliament.

Long-time peace campaigner Lindis Percy said the by-laws themselves are not draconian – by-laws carry limited punishments, and exclude imprisonment.

But Ms Percy, co-coordinator of the Yorkshire-based Campaign for the Accountability of American Bases (CAAB), said the major question was why the laws were being introduced, particularly at unused bases.

Ms Percy said: “I went to Barford St John a couple of months ago. It was very insecure, just a sheep fence. The security cameras are not working. There is nobody there.”

She said one “obvious answer” for the new by-laws was an anticipated increase in deployment of drones for US warfare.
And Leeds North East Labour MP Fabian Hamilton, who has challenged the laws in the Commons, said: “I think that is a very plausible explanation. I would not be surprised.”

Mr Hamilton, who has raised questions in the Commons about the lack of accountability of US bases in Britain many times, said: “We have handed over parts of England to a foreign power with no legitimacy or democratic accountability to the people of this country. Part of the sovereign territory of our country is no longer under the control of democratically-elected representatives.

“Who has debated introduction of these by-laws? No-one. I think it is outrageous. I am not being anti-American. I just care deeply about accountability and democracy. The Americans would never allow this to happen on their territory.”

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