This afternoon I attended a very interesting session of the Joint Committee on Human Rights. They are conducting an inquiry into "Policing and Protest".
(further details are available at http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/joint_committee_on_human_rights/policing_and_protest.cfm). While I was there the three witnesses were Richard North (Social Affairs Unit - http://www.richarddnorth.com/journalism/power/protest.htm); Andrew Gay (Huntingdon Life Sciences - a company targeted by animal rights activists) and Jeremy Dear of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).
Very different views were put forward about allowing protests. It's worth watching the evidence session. Richard North was very critical of protestors and argued that we should be less tolerant of protest, and he argued in written evidence that "representative democracy is itself an important example of human rights at work and that much protest attempts to trump it". Andrew Gay spoke of the campaign against his company. Jeremy Dear argued for the right to protest - and warned of increasing interference with journalists covering demonstrations. Some penetrating questions were posed by the renowned human rights lawyer, Lord Lester of Herne Hill (http://biographies.parliament.uk/parliament/default.asp?id=26915).
As I write this the committee is due to conclude its hearing. It may be some time (perhaps by tomorrow), that the hearing will be available in the archive of http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Archive.aspx (in (1) enter joint committee human rights in (2) tick only the 'Committees' box; in (3) put 21.10.08 in both boxes.). I recommend watching it.