The Future of Parades
As an organisation commited to civil liberty we would obviously favour a model based on the freedoms in the American Constitution and on the European Convention on Human Rights.
All roads should be open to all law-abiding citizens. No community owns any road, particularly if that road is the most direct route to a town or city centre. No group has any right to impede or harass any other group in the peaceful exercise of their civil rights.
If the state would exercise its lawful power to maintain such basic principles then no party need pretend to any feeling of alienation and all citizens would have equal rights.
Ultimately the police are the only people equipped to make a reasoned judgement on parades. No other body would be more acceptable and indeed another body could probably be less acceptable.
The police however must be given clear and unambiguous guidelines and these should also be made clear to the general public.
Those organising Parades should be responsible for the provision of marshals or stewards and take precautions to ensure the good conduct of the participants and in as far as possible, supporters. The police however, are ultimately responsible for ensuring that good behaviour in general is maintained and this should remain so. The police are also responsible for ensuring the free flow of traffic or necessary diversions. Of course this is also true for other events attended by large numbers of people such as sporting events.
Problems can be posed by parades which are politically motivated especially when the organisation concerned has not been engaged in processing along the route before. In such circumstances questions of acceptability and public order should be of greater importance than in respect of long established processions and should only be permitted when it has been determined that the proposed event has not been deliberately designed to provoke resentment or disorder.
If allowed such processions would need to fulfil very strict conditions. Flags, banners, or placards carried should not be such as to cause offence and as far as possible should be restricted to arterial routes and/or commercial districts. Disorder and misbehaviour by persons participating should necessitate further careful consideration by the police as to whether the procession could be repeated. So far as possible they should not pass through residential areas unless the overwhelming majority of the inhabitants are known to support those processing.
No new parade or demonstration should be permitted at a time or place where it is intended to, or may, in fact, clash with a traditional event.
The basic principle should be that law abiding citizens should be allowed to parade on their normal routes and not be diverted from them simply because a body of persons threaten violence.
When assessing whether a procession should be allowed on future occasions it should be the behaviour of those processing that is taken into account and this is of particular importance in the case of new routes and/or new bodies holding demonstrations and parades. Strictly speaking anything outwith this should be irrelevant.
When there is a measure of acceptance that in a free society men and women can protest, demonstrate and/or parade in a peaceful fashion and receive police protection while so doing then much of the problem would vanish.