"Spain is only the latest 'democracy' to consign freedom of assembly
to the dustbin. While earlier eras of protest and riot sometimes wrested
concessions from the state, today the government’s default response is
to implement increasingly draconian laws against the public exercise of
democracy. It raises the question: How many rights must be abrogated
before a liberal democracy becomes a police state?
In Quebec, where student strikes against austerity once again disrupt civil society, marches are being declared illegal before they’ve even begun. At the height of the last wave of student strikes in 2012, the Quebec legislature passed Bill 78,
which made pickets and unauthorized gatherings of over 50 people
illegal, and punished violations with fines of up to $5,000 for
individuals and $125,000 for organizations. Similar fines are once again imposed on protesters.
Last October, a new law was passed in Turkey
allowing police to search demonstrators and their homes without
warrants or even grounds for suspicion, a much looser definition and
harsher punishment for resisting arrest, and making covering your face
at a protest or shouting particular slogans crimes punishable by years
of jail time. This February in London police forced climate protest organizers to hire private security for marshaling a rally, making protesting not a free public right but an expensive private service.
The list goes on: France banned Palestine solidarity demonstrations; police in Australia gained the power to ban protesters from appearing in public spaces for a year, even if they work or live there; and Egypt, Ukraine and Russia’s governments have outlawed protest entirely. Mexico’s congress approved 'la ley antimarchas',
which, if ratified by the state-level governments, will modify the
constitution so that any unauthorized gathering would be illegal: the
constitutional end to freedom of assembly. All of this in 2014."