In the beginning there was Tommy Robinson. Well, not in the beginning, perhaps. But it was Tommy, a working-class lad from Luton, England, whose outspokenness made him the first major face of bold truth-telling about Islam in a country whose entire political and media elite, it seemed, was intent on purveying pretty fictions about its ever-growing Muslim minority – and on continuing to cover up the facts that Tommy insisted on publicizing. Among them: that the Koran preaches violence against non-believers; that mosques all over Britain provided financial support to terrorists; and, most famously, that working-class girls in many English cities were being systematically raped by the members of Muslim “grooming gangs” even as local police, politicians, and social workers turned a blind eye to this barbarism for fear of being called racist.
The attempt by the British establishment to destroy Tommy Robinson reached a climax on May 15, 2018, when he was arrested, tried, and imprisoned – all within a period of a few hours – for the crime of reporting on a grooming-gang trial in Leeds. The contemptible characters behind this miscarriage of justice were obviously hoping that a stint behind bars would finish Tommy off for good – or at least silence him. They almost succeeded. But released after two months when a Court of Appeal found his conviction unfair – he would otherwise have served for over a year – Robinson was wan and weak, but still alive and kicking. Instead of giving up, he returned to the battlefield, and early this year released a powerful documentary, The Rape of Britain, about the grooming gangs in the city of Telford.
If the police went after Tommy for kicking up a fuss over Islam, Harry Miller found himself in their crosshairs because of his views about transgenderism. In January 2019, a police officer showed up at his home in Humberside to inform him that several items on his Twitter feed making light of transgenderism (“I was assigned mammal at birth but I identify as fish”) “caused danger” to trans people. For this reason, contended the cop, “I need to check your thinking.” The officer of the law proceeded to explain that tweets like Miller’s represented “stage one of a five-step journey”; from mere tweeting, Miller would, barring police intervention, proceed to insulting trans people in person, beating them up, murdering them, and then participating in anti-trans genocide.
When informed that he now had a police record for a “non-crime hate incident” – a record, mind you, that police would be free to use against him (in order, for example, to warn away potential employers) – Miller sued the College of Policing, which, established in 2012 to educate police officers in England and Wales, had waited only two years before pushing on constabularies the utterly un-British idea of “non-crime hate incidents.” Miller lost in a lower court but won on appeal, with the judge, Dame Victoria Sharp, writing that “[t]he recording of non-crime hate incidents is plainly an interference with freedom of expression.” Since the verdict, Miller has founded Fair Cop, a group focused on addressing “police attempts to criminalise people for expressing opinions that don’t contravene any laws,” and (with Laurence Fox) the Bad Law Project, a organization designed to fight “political ideology disguised as law.”
All of which brings us to yet another victim of “political ideology disguised as law.” In this case, the offender challenged the official orthodoxy not on Islam or transgenderism but on abortion. And she wasn’t targeted by the police for making noise in the streets, like Tommy, or for tweeting, like Harry Miller, but for standing on a public street in Birmingham near an abortion facility (which was closed at the time). It happened earlier this month, on December 6. The woman, a pro-life activist named Isabel Vaughan-Spruce who heads a group called March for Life UK, was alone on a sidewalk in Birmingham, quiet and motionless, apparently lost in thought, not bothering anybody. Nor, as the website citizengo.org noted, was she “carrying any signage or religious symbols or expressing any opinion whatsoever about abortion.” But a police vehicle drove up and a uniformed officer stepped out and approached her anyway.
All this can be corroborated by a now-viral video of the encounter. The police officer asks why Vaughan-Spruce is there. She admits that it’s because of the abortion facility. He asks if she’s praying. “I might be praying in my head,” she replies. Pointing out that the spot where she’s standing is located in an area covered by a Public Service Protection Order (PSPO) – meaning that anti-abortion protests are prohibited within its boundaries – he asks if she’ll come along voluntarily to the local precinct for questioning. She says no; he places her under arrest.
When this video surfaced on December 22, it was retweeted by a number of prominent Twitter users, including the Free Speech Union (founded two years ago precisely to address outrages like this) and actor Laurence Fox (whose Reclaim Party, established in October 2020, stands for free speech and the rule of law). To be sure, the video seemed so over-the-top that Fox wasn’t entirely sure it was the real thing: “Please tell me this is a well made fake?” he wrote.
Fox, needless to say, was on Vaughan-Spruce’s side. But a depressing number of Twitter users sided with the cop, agreeing with him that Vaughan-Spruce, simply by praying silently, was in violation of the PSPO. “She’s in breech [sic] of a PSPO and therefore should be arrested. Otherwise, why have PSPOs?” read one tweet. Other Twitter users praised the cop for being “[v]ery professional and courteous” and for handling the situation “brilliantly” and in a “completely sensible” fashion.
It’s always useful to be reminded how many people who live in a historically free country actually love the idea of living in a police state.
Eventually, Twitter – yes, Elon Musk’s Twitter – inserted into at least one of the threads on the topic a text box providing what it called “context.” Vaughan-Spruce, explained Twitter’s contextualizing text, “was not arrested for silently praying. She was arrested for breaking a temporary Public Space Protection Order on four separate occasions which was used to ban protests outside of an abortion clinic due to safety concerns.” What a splendid job of totalitarian hair-splitting! To quote the translation of Twitter’s “context” by one sane Twitter user, Luke Bonanno: “Isabel’s physical presence in the public space protection order (PSPO) area wasn’t a crime in itself; it was the contents of her private thoughts that were prohibited. If Isabel had stood in the same place thinking about another topic, she would not have been arrested.”
Yep. Thought Policing, pure and simple.
Appearing on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News program on Friday, Vaughan-Spruce provided some useful addenda about her arrest. She pointed out that the original purpose of the law under which she’d been taken into custody had been to deal with matters like public drunkenness, but that it was now being used to punish people like her. She informed Carlson that during the interrogation at the police station, she’d been asked explicitly about the content of her silent prayer. And she disclosed that, when the interrogation was over, she was charged with four counts, including “antisocial behavior.” She will go to trial in February.
The day after Vaughan-Spruce appeared with Tucker Carlson, I watched a service of lessons and carols from Westminster Abbey hosted by the Princess of Wales and attended by the King and Queen and a glittering assortment of other nobs. You might almost have thought that the U.K. was still a Christian country. For over an hour, there was wall-to-wall singing and talking – and praying! – about Joseph and Mary and the baby Jesus. I kept waiting for a SWAT team to bust in and haul Charles, Camilla, and the whole gang off to the hoosegow. Why not, after all? If silent Christian prayer is now verboten in the land of John Stuart Mill and John Milton, why should this kind of in-your-face worship be permitted? Shouldn’t the monarch set a good example of not offending the unfaithful?
Yes, Vaughan-Spruce’s arrest is appalling. But it’s nothing new. Aside from Tommy Robinson and Harry Miller, countless other Brits have been hauled into court for holding the wrong opinions, mostly about Islam. And speaking of Islam: it’s illuminating to note that while Vaughan-Spruce was arrested for praying silently, all by herself, nobody was arrested when (just to mention the first couple of hits I got in response to a quick online photo search) scores of Muslims blocked a London street to pray in February 2012, or when, in Birmingham itself, hundreds of Muslims prayed publicly last May to celebrate Eid. It’s also worth remembering that every man-hour that British police spend tormenting innocent people like Vaughan-Spruce is a man-hour not spent bringing to justice members of grooming gangs.
Plainly, groups like the Free Speech Party, Reclaim Party, Fair Cop, and the Bad Law Project have their work cut out for them. Of course, reforming this situation – if at all possible – isn’t just a matter of retraining lummoxes who’ve been fed toxic ideologies by the College of Policing. It’s a matter of taking down the College of Policing itself, along with other core institutions that target dissenters from progressive ideology and that don’t mind having the coppers do their dirty work for them. The very fact that Tommy Robinson, on that dark day in Leeds, was whisked straight to a courtroom and then to a prison suggests a degree of unholy collusion that brings to mind the current revelations about systematic connivance against American citizens by U.S. intelligence agencies and social-media platforms. We can only hope that in 2023 valiant free-speech champions like Laurence Fox and Harry Miller will begin, at least, to turn the tide against the heartless traitors to British liberty who want nothing less than to crush the good and decent likes of Isabel Vaughan-Spruce.