Are We Already Losing Our Freedom of Assembly?

For the past two days the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has hosted the “Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly and Association, with Emphasis on Freedom of Association” at the Hofburg in Vienna . Harald Fiegl and Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff were among the participants at today’s conference.

From the prospectus for the event:

This Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting (SHDM) will provide a forum for the discussion of the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association as a means to achieving democracy and human security in the OSCE area. The topics will focus on a human security approach to freedoms of assembly and association, non-discrimination and the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association as well as the enhancement of the participation of associations in public decision making processes. The discussion will focus on the role of the OSCE participating States and other actors in safeguarding and promoting relevant OSCE commitments.

Below is an intervention read by Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolff on behalf of Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa at today’s plenary.

Pax Europa

Intervention by Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa
Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association

Vienna, April 17, 2015
Session II
Non-Discrimination and the Freedoms of Peaceful Assembly

Are we already losing our freedom of assembly?

It is with significant concern that Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa has followed the developments in freedom of assembly in several OSCE Participating States over the last decade. Propaganda from extremist groups, violent street confrontations and lackluster enforcement of relevant laws is leading us to the conclusion that freedom of assembly is under severe pressure, as compared to a decade or two ago.

As mentioned, this is a problem in several OSCE Participating States. Examples from Sweden, Denmark, Great Britain, Germany, Austria and more show that in particular left wing extremist, and to some extent Islamist, groups, are granted undue opportunities for intimidation, threats and open violence against public manifestations held by groups they disagree with. This is leading to a hardening of the environment for public manifestations, discouraging participation by the average citizen, and creates undue security challenges for organizers of fully democratic and peaceful public events.

There are many examples of organized terrorism against peaceful assemblies:

  • In Sweden, members of the extremist group Revolutionäre Fronten has committed several acts of political violence, assaulting public events and individuals for political reasons. The perpetrators have been convicted of no less than 12 years of jail time for their politically motivated offenses. (Danish article)
  • In Denmark, similar (though less openly violent) groups repeatedly intimidate and assault public events. One such case was on February 23rd 2013, when AFA sought to attack a demonstration held in support of the Jews in Denmark, who face increasing harassment by Islamists. (Danish article)
  • In England, the group Unite Against Fascism repeatedly used classical fascist street intimidation tactics in order to intimidate, scare and assault peaceful rallies held by the English Defence League.
  • In Germany, similar groups framing themselves as “Anti-fascists” have — frequently successfully — blocked street events held by PEGIDA, a group protesting increasing Islamic influence in Germany. Thus, the so-called ‘anti-fascists’ deprive their opponents of a fundamental right in a democratic society, that of citizens assembling peacefully in order to express their concerns and opinions. (German article)

This is a problem with several aspects. One of them is that when public events face threats of attack from extremist groups, the threatened events frequently find themselves in difficult situations due to demands made by police authorities. Police in several countries apply a variety of methods to diminish the visibility of the threatened events, an approach that is at odds with fundamental OSCE principles for freedom of assembly. These methods include police doing the following:

  • Ordering events to be held in locations far from the city centers, where not many will see them. As an example, the weekly Danish ‘For Freedom’, organized by Nicolai Sennels, has a blanket denial of their request to walk in the heart of Copenhagen, due to the risk of attacks from extremist groups.
  • Protecting events with so intense police protection that the message of the event becomes invisible. This practice is explicitly prohibited in OSCE commitments, yet it takes place in Germany and other OSCE Participating States nonetheless. Pro Köln was subject to his during their May 2012 street events.
  • Declaring that protection cannot be provided, due to the expected threats being too overwhelming for the police to handle, forcing the organizers to entirely cancel the event. This happened, for example, when BPE had organized a “Support Israel” event in Stuttgart, June 2011.

Another problem is that of ‘counter-demonstrations’, which in many cases serve as rallying points for radical activists intending to physically assault the primary demonstration. One such case was the demonstration for democracy and against Sharia in Århus, Denmark on March 31st 2012, where hundreds of participants from the counter-demonstration laid siege on the main demonstration. Effective police effort prevented almost all direct assaults on the demonstration, but the situation was far from what is desirable in a democracy, namely that unarmed citizens have the right to assemble and express their concerns without having to fear being assaulted.

While the people organizing such counter-demonstrations have an equal right to assemble and express their differing views, they do not have the right to intimidate, threaten and assault the primary demonstration. Freedom of assembly means the freedom to peacefully express a variety of views, not freedom to provoke street battles or destroy events of others.

This regretfully happened to our event in support of persecuted Christians in the Middle East, held in Stuttgart, June 2011 (related to the “Support Israel” event mentioned above). While it was possible to hold a few brief speeches, the assault by hundreds marching under waving banners entirely destroyed the original intention of music and speeches in support of persecuted Christians.

The topic of counter-demonstrations is intricate, for at first glance, they would seem to be protected by the freedom of assembly principle we are working to uphold. However, if such events are used to attack the freedom of others to assemble peacefully, they are no longer protected by this principle, and can be considered by the authorities as attempts to undermine this freedom. The currently established principle that counter-demonstrations are to be permitted near the demonstration they are against is problematic, for this increases tension, anger and confrontation, and decreases the chances of having what really matters, peaceful assemblies expressing citizens’ concerns.

Another difficulty arising from permitting counter-demonstrations to be held close to and visible by the primary demonstration is that it can make identifying the source of violence difficult. A counter-demonstration intended to intimidate and provoke the primary demonstration can cause tempers to flare on both sides, setting the scene for unneeded violent clashes and scaring ordinary citizens from participating in street assemblies in the future.

If the result of threatening counter-demonstrations is that less muscular citizens refrain from participating in public assemblies, freedom of assembly has taken real damage. Thus, there is a need to protect the primary demonstrations not only against actual violence, but also against threats and intimidations that make public rallies seem fit for muscular, fighting types only. Freedom of assembly must be for everyone, weak or strong, singers as well as fighters.

It is the opinion of Bürgerbewegung Pax Europa that this principle should be reconsidered, in order to restore the right to peaceful assembly currently under threat.

BPE thus recommends:

  • That so-called ‘counter-demonstrations’ be prevented from becoming rallying points for initiating street battles, for example by not permitting them to be held near the initial demonstration.
  • That police and intelligence organizations make an effective and unbiased effort to identify precisely which groups promote threatening and violent behavior, and which do not.
  • That police and other relevant authorities radically improve the efforts to protect peaceful assemblies, including any that promote controversial or unpopular opinions.
  • That police authorities take effective measures to ensure that so-called ‘counter-demonstrations’ are not used as rallying points to initiate street battles.

For links to previous articles about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, see the OSCE Archives.

12 thoughts on “Are We Already Losing Our Freedom of Assembly?

  1. Of course as mass invasion of “other peoples” at the invitation of non-elected Euro-dictators escalates, the need for freedom of association for white Europeans becomes more urgent.

    But I would argue that this is putting a bandaid on a mortal wound, a desperate effort to heal the rupture at the margins. White Europeans, and even more so white Christian Europeans, are targeted for extinction; and all their rallying for freedom of association (and speech) and other noble efforts are doomed unless as one voice they speak BOLDLY to reverse the invasion; no, not just stop it, but send the aliens packing. Otherwise, there is little hope for a bright tomorrow for white people in Europe, and certainly not for white Christians in Europe.

    That’s just the way this anglo-American sees the landscape.

    By now, most Europeans and Americans should understand that multiculturalism is nothing more than propaganda to prepare whites for their absorption into the balkanized collective — with their culture and their civilization erased in toto.

    • Alas, highly educated people I know in the U.S. are starry-eyed and oblivious to what is happening. There is no fury, only smug surrender.

      God bless these people who fight the prevailing lunacy, but the real problem is simply that the government uses the fascist “anti”-fascists as auxilliaries. We see here the rebirth of the communist and National Socialist street thugs of 1930s Germany.

      Today, however, there is no SA, which was, of course, identical in every way to the red gangs, save for a few commas in their manifestos. Today, it’s home-grown communists who are determined to extinguish a thousand years of European civilization. Rule by street gangs as the bovine Westerners watch the victory march of suicidal socialism and progressive folly! Praise the Lord!

      It’s a stampede over the cliff in actuality but billion-dollar media and educational organizations are dedicated to concealing this, reliably backed up by our mighty engines of repression, the courts.

      An interesting article on esotericism at City Journal today states the controlling civilizational options as reason, faith and/or power. We witness now the fantasy of democratic politics being suffocated by power with a comforting veneer technical brilliance. At the heart of the sickness of the West, however, is a stupidity about arithmetic and human nature that portends a global tragedy whose unfolding one can watch only with a sick fascination, like watching a homosexual “pride” parade or reading one’s 10,000th Wall Street Journal open-borders editorial.

      • “Rule by street gangs as the bovine Westerners watch the victory march of suicidal socialism and progressive folly! Praise the Lord!”

        Let me beat an old drum again. I could never figure out why gun control was always a vital component of any leftist agenda. An armed citizenry would have little chance against the organized assaults of police and specialized armed forces teams, so private arms would have little chance of turning back a sustained government assault on freedom.

        The answer is, privately-armed citizens are able to fight back against aggressive street gangs. Street gangs are the “vanguard of the proletariat”, so to speak. The street gangs are the mechanism for social change and revolutionary government, but the government in power has to maintain deniability. So the street gangs are limited in the power of their weapons and organization, giving the armed citizens a chance against them, especially if organized.

        It is not a coincidence that the places with the largest, most violent street gangs such as Chicago, are the places with the most stringent laws against the law-abiding citizens arming themselves.

        • It is not a coincidence that the places with the largest, most violent street gangs such as Chicago, are the places with the most stringent laws against the law-abiding citizens arming themselves.

          And the police and other public sector law enforcement folks are complicit in permitting the drug gangs to keep their weapons.

    • But I would argue that this is putting a bandaid on a mortal wound

      While I can’t disagree with the severity of the problem of importing millions of under-educated Sharia proponents to what used to be an affluent and free Western world, I differ somewhat anyway:

      We need to get through the nitty-gritty of the problems that arise in our societies, and this is one of several. “Freedom of Expression” has been a great rallying point against Islamism, and “Freedom of Assembly” should be a similar important one, not least against the left wing extremist who effectively work as the SturmAbteilung (SA) for the Islamists. This is one line of attack that we need to break. There are other battles to take, we need to work in as many places as possible.

      I heard from Elisabeth that it caused a stun effect in the assembly that issues West of Vienna (in the Western countries) were brought up – there had been a lot of hammering on the Russians, no interest in the very real problems we have here. I believe the ambassadors of our countries, who were present and are obliged to report to their governments, woke up and rubbed their eyes: “Problems in our countries? Can’t be!”.

      It’s interesting times, and lots of challenges are still ahead of us.

  2. Harriet, is there a place for non-white Christians in your Europe or North America–especially those who bear the whites no ill will, accept many aspects of North Atlantic culture (especially provisions of such constitutional documents as the English Bill or Rights of 1689, he American Bill of Rights 0f a century later), intermarry, and the like–even if we do things like introduce new foods or ways of painting pictures? This is a close concern of mine, and many others dismayed by Leftist and Islamic aggression.

    • Yes, this is about culture and not skin colour, by ‘white’ one is referring to a (fuzzy) jargon term for ‘European’ and this, in a cultural context, as the prevailing culture in Europe (and places of European influence). It is essentially those places where the Judeo-Christian ethic and lifestyle has been of major impact.

      What it comes down to is whether an individual recognizes the virtue of the idea ‘do as you would be done by’ that is embedded in the bible even if the book and its associated belief systems have been discarded.

      • Yes, exactly. The key problem that we’re talking about here is that for concepts like “human rights” to work, people have to acknowledge and reciprocate each other’s rights.

        Obviously not everyone is going to agree on every detail about what rights people have in what cases, but as long as the common ground is substantial and people all agree to work within the system of government to resolve any disputes there isn’t a huge problem.

        Unfortunateiy with Islam we have a case where there are a large number of people who refuse to reciprocate the rights of others outside that group. Islam has no concept of universal human rights. Only Muslims are believed to have God given rights and everyone else is effectively a slave who has no rights beyond that granted by the Muslim in charge. (In practice though, not even Muslims have inalienable rights as Muslims can still be slaves of other Muslims.)

        Refusal to acknowledge the rights of others necessarily results in criminal behavior. It also results in withdrawing recognition of rights that are not being reciprocated. That’s what happens when someone is thrown in prison (some of their rights were revoked because they refused to acknowledge the rights of others).

    • Hi Kepha,

      If races were meant to mix, would we have had Anglo-Saxons? *chuckles*

      Seriously, I love the presence of anyone who contributes to the material, spiritual, or intellectual culture of the country. I think we have to hesitate in allowing in people who are congenitally unable to participate in, or contribute to, the economy or culture, or who are likely to be on permanent or long-term assistance. I also think we should not admit people who are opposed to our form of government, even if they are peaceful. It doesn’t make sense to dilute the support for individual rights and representative government.

      I do favor a pathway for people who wish to maintain a racial identity, whatever that is. They just can’t do it on public support. For example, if they want to have an all-white school, they will be ineligible for public support. What is the sense in having a black, or Indian, contribute to a school his kids can’t attend? Similarly, a place of employment, such as a religious school, would be able to exclude homosexuals, but may have to pay a premium on local taxes, as the taxes of gays are used to support the fire and police services they use.

  3. After WW II, Winston Churchill declared that ” The Fascists of the future would call themselves anti Fascists “. So it is with the UAF ( they call it Unite Against Fascists – we call it Urine And Faeces). Interesting to see the 1689 Bill of Rights mentioned. In theory at least, the provisions still hold, although trampled on by successive governments.

    • In the UK, UAF also means united against Farage leader of UKIP who was attacked by the same scum when out with his family at Sunday lunch.

    • The current Nazi/Fascist is an imaginary creature, but whose crime is to be an activist against some ideal staunchly held by the socialists (a.k.a. real fascists). So right of centre, small government advocates and ‘deniers’ (various, assorted; climate, Aids, vaccination, and others), and Counter-Jihadists and those who still believe in Jehovah are all imaginary fascists and can be treated accordingly.

      The leftist tendency to use words according to their emotiveness in the language rather than their actual meaning means that they can grossly distort any real dialogue where they have the ability to shout louder and longer than anybody else, in other circles this would be called bullying.

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