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The Juggernaut rolls on - Olympic Autocracy at Leyton Marsh

Following earlier extraordinary legal decisions, including the acquittal of PC Harwood and the ruling in the High Court that pre-emptive arrests were not unlawful, comes the news that Save Leyton Marsh's application for judicial review of the planning permission for the Basketball Training facility had been thrown out without the applicants even knowing it had been heard. Even more extraordinary was the fact that the ODA had taken over the defence from Waltham Forest, even though it was not the defendant and it had not granted the planning permission. And as if that was not enough the ODA, using public funds of £40million to defend itself, applied for and has been granted an order for costs of £20,142.96, and another £4,140.00 for Waltham Forest, against the Save Leyton Marsh campaigners!

Given the weight of the case against Waltham Forest and its own admissions of the weakness of its planning permission when weighed against the planning policies involved this is a truly astonishing but not unique decision. Save Wanstead Flats also found its attempt to judicially review the overturning of the Epping Forest Act met with no sympathy in the courts. However, not to be told of the hearing or to be allowed to be present to argue against such a heavy financial penalty is reminiscent of the behaviour of courts in autocratic states. Put side by side with the decision to allow pre-emptive arrests serious questions have to be asked about the road these judges have set off down.

It is a measure of the brutality of the Olympic process that the ODA should adopt the attitude it has. Plainly it wishes to crush the small community campaign which has challenged it. To require payment of costs on this scale can only be designed to intimidate and bankrupt individuals who have dared oppose the Olympic juggernaut. This is not the first time legal threats have been used by the LDA. Leabank Square faced the threat of libel action over comments on its blog. At a recent meeting with members of the local community Mark Sorrell, who has made a number of accusations against protesters in the past, declared that the ODA would not fulfil earlier commitments to organise an open day for children because that promise was made before they stared 'jumping over fences' (see 1hr 21mins of recording) a truly vindictive response to peaceful protest by local people.

But this is not all! Save Leyton Marsh is organising a comedy benefit for the campaign. The manager of the venue has been rung by the police enquring to find out if members of Occupy were going to attend, which would make it a protest event and require the presence of police. He was told to expect a call from the security services. It seems the direst predictions of a clampdown on civil liberties are coming true. Save Leyton Marsh and Occupy are not terrorist organisations so why they should be attracting the attention of the security services is simply beyond comprehension. Have the authorities really got nothing better to do?

As if all this was not enough local businesses displaying posters advertising the Save Leyton Marsh benefit have been visited by Waltham Forest council officers and the posters taken down, supposedly under Olympics legislation. Save Leyton Marsh has since said Waltham Forest not Hackney Council as earlier reported, is also refusing to allow the campaign to use its halls for meetings. What exactly is it that these authorities are so frightened of? This is a group of local people, who pay the taxes that sustain these same authorities, who are exercising their democratic rights to peacefully oppose actions taken with minimal consultation and in plain contravention of planning rules. Some campaigners have ended up in prison for their trouble. Far from respecting those who peacefully protest and suffer the consequences the authorities' response is to stoke up their fury and issue further threats. Perhaps they think this wins them respect, if so they should think again.

Is harassing local people in this way really what the local council, the police, the security services, Olympic authorities and courts are for?


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