General Question

RareDenver's avatar

A man has been fined for burning poppies on Remembrance Sunday, do you think this was the correct judgement.

Asked by RareDenver (13163points) March 10th, 2011

If you are not aware of the story it’s here

Basically a protest on Remembrance Sunday by some Muslim men ended with them burning some Poppies

Now as distasteful as I find their behaviour, I can’t see that they actually broke any laws, apart from maybe lighting an unlicensed fire in a public place. There has been a bit of an uproar here that the man was only fined £50 and he himself commented that he gets a larger fine for illegal parking but are we to now convict people for free speech when we find that speech distasteful. As far as I can tell they weren’t inciting others to violence. Having said that I’m still not sure how I feel on the subject, maybe I would have fined him 10 times as much?

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25 Answers

WasCy's avatar

It’s political speech of a non-inciteful kind (I decided against the term ‘non-incendiary’) and as such one would think it’s protected speech.

What was the reason given for the prosecution and fine?

meiosis's avatar

I don’t think he should have been prosecuted, as one of the prices of freedom is that dickheads are free to do dickhead things. Your right to offend me should be massively more important than any putative right not to be offended.

The Public Order Act, which also includes the “Behaviour Likely to Cause a Breach of the Peace” clause, is one of those acts that are sadly prone to misuse and vexatious prosecution. The sooner they’re repealed the better, though this being England it will be no-time soon.

RareDenver's avatar

@WasCy the reason given was Their actions went “far beyond the boundaries of legitimate protest and freedom of expression,” prosecutor Simon Ray said. Choudhury, of Hunton Street, was found guilty under Section 5 of the Public Order Act of burning the poppies in a way that was likely to cause “harassment, harm or distress” to those who witnessed it.

seekingwolf's avatar

Aside from burning something in a public place (if that’s illegal) I don’t think he should have gotten into trouble. It’s freedom of speech. He just got in trouble because some people got butthurt over his actions.

lifeflame's avatar

My first reaction, when I read your reaction, is no – they should have a right to express what they want. People should be even allowed to burn their own country’s flag if they want.

However, after reading the article, I have mixed feelings.
The fact that they yelled, “Burn, burn, British soldiers, British soldiers, burn in hell.” The crowd continued: “British soldiers – murderers, British soldiers – rapists, British soldiers – terrorists’ starts to slide into hate speech.

It’s tricky though, because the article has a clear bias. (e.g., calling him a “Muslim extremist”), so it’s hard to know.

I also don’t like the judge’s argument: “Judge Riddle called Mr Kibble a “mild-mannered” man who had impressed him as a member of the public with “typical feelings” about Remembrance Day.” ... I don’t know if using a “typical feelings” – i.e., social norms argument is a good logical argument. (Argumentum Ad Populum)

Nullo's avatar

No fine, IMO, just exposure to the natural consequences of his behavior.That is, if he didn’t do anything else.
Why on Earth is he protesting the end of WWI?

markferg's avatar

UK law is rather fluid in a lot of its implementation and is thus much more open to interpretation than US law. So, there is no law restricting the burning of poppies per se but you can be done for causing distress (by any manner at all). Who decides that? The Judge, since many court cases no longer require a jury. Who appoints the Judge? Still, I think the verdict was justified in this case. So, do we have a clearly defined book of rules that people can find loopholes in, or do we have general laws that are interpreted on a case by case basis? Difficult to choose really.

syzygy2600's avatar

No, he shouldn’t be charged with anything. Freedom of speech and expression are important for everyone

If someone wants to kick the stupid out of his racist ignorant ass, that I can understand.

markferg's avatar

@syzygy2600 – The whole point of the law in the UK is to stop people kicking the crap out of each other. In the UK we have decided to restrict the individual’s right to free speech in the ‘better’ interests of keeping the peace. So, if you want complete freedom of speech then accept the violence that this might provoke. I’d rather have freedom of speech and no violence but this isn’t how it will be, I’m happy to accept the restrictions so that violence is minimised in society overall. It probably makes me a socialist in the US sense of the word. Good.

An excellent example of where this breaks down even in the USA is the Westboro Baptist Church

iamthemob's avatar

UK has less speech protection, so this might be in line with their laws…

…however, I think that the authorities were probably right – cause when I looked at that link I was like “Whoa…that’s a BALL of FIRE!”

josie's avatar

I would have beaten him up.

Dutchess_III's avatar

I would have stood in the smoke.

TheHornAndBeek's avatar

This isn’t a matter of freedom of speech. Brother lit a fire in public. That’s just plain stupid. Not to mention dangerous.

Dutchess_III's avatar

The United States should be so logical. We allow some of the grossest crap to happen here, like the recent upholding of the freedom of speech for the Westboro Baptist Church. That goes against….everything. The law should be if your “speech” causes more people harm than it gives a handful of people sadistic joy, they should be stopped.

ForestCreature's avatar

Freedom of Speech and the expression of same does and should have boundaries. British culture is fluid and given that these fellows have maligned a symbol of freedom from within the country they choose to reside in, while biting the teat that feeds both them and their families, their dispicable act should have bought them being dealt with by this centuries old culture and the people evolved from the very culture they are insulting.
The fluid nature of Britain’s evolving culture and laws should deal with them in the same vein as they, the pyromaniacs, have expressed themselves to their chosen neighbours who are paying for their grub and toilet paper….. Deny them the benefits from the State…. Make them work real good and hard for what resources they use up, so much so, that they would be too tired from a real day’s work. Bullys respect nothing… No Excuses for Any Time Off, especially those of the holier-than-thou nature. Force integration into the very society that the pyromaniacs denigrate, and force an apology to the innocents maligned and harmed who have inherent rights to a peaceful existence, given the sacrifice of their forefathers….
Stop these zany insane “Theatre of the Mind” antics from individuals with too much time on their hands and too much money given to, or donated to, these united crazies of freeloading….

syzygy2600's avatar

@Dutchess_III I don’t have any problem with the Westboro Baptist Church exercising their right to free speech. It just let’s me know who to euthanize first if I ever become the unquestioned ruler of the world.

Dutchess_III's avatar

Yeah. A slooooow euthanization. I think we go too far sometimes in the name of free speech but….where, how do you draw the line? Does a kid in an apartment building have the right to blast his stero at all hours of the day and night in the name of free speech? No. We’d stop him in the name of “disturbing the peace.” If trying to cause an uproar at a funeral isn’t “disturbing the peace” I don’t know what is. That ruling just pissed me off so bad…and I’m so embarrassed that they’re from Kansas.

mammal's avatar

He burnt a poppy, the US and British military bombs and kills thousands in illegal wars, it’s hardly comparable, in fact it’s pretty obscene when you think about it. He get’s fined £50 the US and Britain get off Scot free. Maybe some people prefer a suicide bomber at the next remembrance day. Will people ever get, that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, there was no righteous justification for invading that country or Afghanistan, that people, civilians have had their modest lives destroyed and poisoned by death and destruction.

Poppy day would simply become a quaint reminder of how desperate the world was in the early and mid 20th century and a lesson for schoolchildren toward the importance of diplomacy, were it not for every subsequent military campaign based entirely upon an ideology of exploitation, masquerading as an ideology of emancipation.

Dutchess_III's avatar

OK. Now I have to step back and ask WHAT is Remembrance day and does it having anything to do with Muslims? Too tired to Google…gotta go to bed soon.

mammal's avatar

@Dutchess_III Poppy day, Remembrance day, Veterans day, same thing.

markferg's avatar


From the poem ‘The Fallen’ by Laurence Binyon:

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Hence , Remembrance Sunday. The first Sunday after the 11th Nov each year. 11 am on Nov 11th, 1918 being the official ending of World War 1 (the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month). Originally just for WW1 commemoration, It has become an event to commemorate all lost lives in conflict, although still mainly a military event. The poppy is the symbol of this event as poppies thrive in recently turned, oxygen rich soil. After the extensive bombing, fields of conflict in WW1 were frequently covered by an blanket of red poppies, which became associated with the war.

I really do think that if you forget history you will be condemned to repeat it, so the event is worth having. However, some (many?) think it concentrates too much on the lost lives of soldiers and not enough on the lives of civilians also lost in conflict. I can understand this viewpoint but I can’t subscribe to the idea that you can just go in and dishonour the event. If I could sell drawings of Mohammed without people wanting to kill me, then I’d be cool with poppy burning. However, I am circumspect in my behaviour because of the attitude of others who have opinions I do not agree with, so I feel justified in expecting those people to respect my culture and history, in exactly the same way that they want me to behave towards them.

If you’re up for 100% free speech then I’m up for giving anyone a stream of language that a Tourette’s sufferer would be hard pressed to match. Until such time, if I keep a civil tongue, I’d expect others to do the same.

ForestCreature's avatar

Where were the women in this display of moral superiority by these 3 goofs…. because I think that if a statement is going to be made on behalf of a group then let’s see equal representation….

everephebe's avatar

@RareDenver “As far as I can tell they weren’t inciting others to violence.” @WasCy “It’s political speech of a non-inciteful kind..”

I have to disagree. It could easily incite violence, on itself. I think they should be arrested and jailed for their own protection. :D

I understand having issues with British conflicts, but WWI soldiers? I think this guys want attention. The got some, for being morons. “Fuck peace! War is good, kill the infidels!”

WasCy's avatar

@everephebe is probably right. I was responding to the literal “burning poppies” (without having seen or read the link in the original question) regarding the words / chants, etc. that accompanied that action. The action itself (minus the words, chants, slogans, etc.) was probably not actionable, but the words that accompanied that were certainly inflammatory – and apparently meant to inflame.

bunnygrl's avatar

@markferg wonderful answer honey, if I could I’d give you 100 lurve. <hugs> xx

Rememberence day here is tremendiously important, and the silence we keep, on the streets, in shops, at train stations, bus stops, in offices, .... is a part of British life honeys. For those two minutes, on the 11th day of the 11th month our country really does stop, and we are united in a way that simply never happens at any other time. We have all grown up, quite rightly, to respect those who have died to protect the freedoms (which unfortunately successive governments have then given away to Brussels but thats another whole discussion) we would not have had without their sacrifice. I work in a very large supermarket which is constantly busy, constantly noisy, and to be there during the two minutes silence is truly humbling. Everyone, absolutely everyone, stops, and stands in silence with heads bowed, and for those two minutes we are united.

This man’s family have spoken of how ashamed they are of his bahaviour, you can see it here honeys. Some of these men, including the one charged, gave statements to the press saying things like how much they hate the UK, how eventually we will all live under Sharia law, etc etc. This whole episode was designed to cause as much offence as possible, and they succeeded. As many in the media pointed out, the threat to burn the koran brought death threats, why is such a slur against our servicemen and women only judged to merit a £50 fine. That in itself is truly offensive.

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