Page last updated at 10:46 GMT, Saturday, 14 March 2009

Call for ban on military protests

Luton protests
Angry protests greeted returning soldiers in Luton

Conservative MP David Davies has called on abusive protests against serving military personnel to be outlawed.

The Monmouth MP has tabled an amendment to a bill governing religious hatred that would extend protection to the Armed Forces.

It would make it an offence to incite hatred against serving soldiers.

He was responding to a small group of anti-war protesters who this week demonstrated in Luton at the homecoming parade of the Royal Anglian Regiment.

They held placards saying "Anglian soldiers go to hell" and "Butchers of Basra".

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Two people were arrested as 200 soldiers marched through the town centre to mark their return from Iraq. They were members of the public who reacted to the protests.

Mr Davies, a member of the home affairs select committee, told the BBC the same protection which outlaws abusive behaviour outside mosques and other places of worship should be extended to the military.

"What I'm suggesting is that British soldiers, who I think are our finest young men and women, the cream of society, should also be protected from that sort of gratuitous abuse they experienced last week," he said.

"I've taken the religious hatred bill and taken out all references to religion and I've changed it to uniformed military personnel on official duties and if that's tabled and passed, that would give British soldiers the same rights."

'Drop charges'

Anger should not be directed at the soldiers who are helping to rebuild those countries and who deserve our support because they are underpaid and do not get proper equipment or medical treatment, Mr Davies added.

"If they were anti-war protesters, they should have come down to Parliament and protested in a peaceful way," he said.

"There are lots of people in this country, and I'll admit that I'm one of them, who have concerns about the way in which we were taken to war."

He also called for charges brought against individuals in Luton who allegedly hurled abuse at the protesters to be dropped.

Abu Omar, who went to the demonstration but could not get inside the police cordon, said: "All soldiers made a decision to be part of the Army and to go to Iraq and unleash 36,000 rounds of bullets.

"So these people committed crimes over there and the protests were not about inciting violence or anything but rather to voice the opinion that these people have done war crimes. Everyone is upset over this."

He claimed the soldiers had committed acts of terrorism in Iraq and destroyed the country's infrastructure.

Soldiers need to be held to account, he said, and they should not be above the law.



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SEE ALSO
Thousands welcome protest troops
11 Mar 09 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts
Two held during parade protests
10 Mar 09 |  Beds/Bucks/Herts

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