South West Conference, Exeter

March 2023

Members of the Salisbury group attended the conference in Exeter

It was good to get back to having a conference after a two year hiatus because of Covid. It was extremely well attended with over 60 people coming from all over the region including Penzance in the west and ourselves and people from Southampton in the east. To open, there was a video from Agn├Ęs Callamard, the Secretary General of Amnesty International.

Among the speakers was Tom Davis who addressed the subject of protecting the protest. A series of bills have been introduced by the present government, some in advanced stages of enactment, which individually and collectively will have a serious effect on the rights of citizens to protest. There is no direct right to protest but it is inherent in the right of free speech and the right of assembly. It is sometimes forgotten that the protests of people in the past have brought much needed social change to our nation. Women would not have the vote without it; workplace laws would not have happened without it. The riots after the Peterloo massacre brought change and the Great Reform Act. Throughout our history there has been protest, sometimes violent, in an attempt to force change.

Recently, Extinction Rebellion have mounted a series of protests in their campaign to promote more attention to climate change and, in their view, insufficient and inadequate action by the government to tackle it. Many have objected to the inconvenience their actions have caused. Almost certainly, the succession of bills have had as a focus, giving police the means to frustrate these protests. For example, introducing the crime of ‘locking on’ to make it an offence to glue oneself to the pavement or link arms. Have we forgotten that the suffragettes chained themselves to railings?

Tom said the Public Order bill, currently weaving its way through parliament, was “deeply, deeply, concerning”. The police will be able to prevent people from attending protests in certain circumstances. The intention appears to be to so limit the ability to protest to those which no one notices. It is disappointing to note that Sir Keir Starmer is supporting some of the measures.

It seemed appropriate that another speaker was a journalist from Nicaragua. She is currently at the University of York, but were she to return to her country she will be arrested. Nicaragua is the only country in the Americas which has no newspaper she said. All have been shut down by the government. Daniel Ortega runs a brutal regime, any protest results in arrest and long sentences. The prisons are dangerously overcrowded and violent. The Pope recently described the state as a dictatorship resulting in Ortega cutting off diplomatic relations with the Vatican.

Photos show a quick demonstration in front of the Cathedral and people getting ready for the conference at the Mint in Exeter. Photos: Salisbury Amnesty

All praise to the Exeter group of Amnesty for hosting and organising this event.

March minutes

March 2023

These are the minutes of the group’s meeting in March thanks to group member Lesley for preparing them. There are a number of forthcoming events at which anyone thinking of joining us could make themselves known. Of special note is the annual market stall so if you have items which you can donate that will be appreciated.

NOTE: there is an error under ‘matters arising’ – 15th May should read 15th March that is this Wednesday.

Forthcoming group events

This is a short list of some of our forthcoming activities. Fuller details will be in the minutes which will be posted up in the next few days. These are all events where, if you’re thinking of joining us, it would be a good chance to come and say hello. It is free to join the local group but to get the full benefit of Amnesty then there is a fee to join AIUK in London.

  • Next week there is the annual evensong at the Cathedral starting at 5:30 on 16th March.
  • We shall be present at the Playhouse between 21st and 25th March during performances of the Beekeeper of Aleppo. We shall be handing out leaflets on the subject of refugees – an especially hot topic at present with the government’s proposed laws to curtail the boat crossings.
  • We shall be holding our market stall on 22nd of April in the Market Square. If you are able to bring anything for sale that would be appreciated. Quality books, plants, bric-a-brac, jewellery and china ware all popular. No electrical goods please. We shall be there early.
  • People in the Park on 20th May in Queen Elizabeth Gardens where we shall be for most of the day. Not sure what the theme will be yet but probably around one or other of the bills the government is pursuing to curtail protest and opposition to their policies.

We look forward to seeing at one or more of these events.

Group meeting, February

February 2023

We are pleased to attach the minutes of the group meeting held in February 2023 with thanks to group member Lesley for producing them. The next event is the coffee morning at St Thomas’s Church in Salisbury on Saturday 18 February, 10 until noon and this would be a good time to make yourself known if you were thinking of joining us. This is an important time in the UK for human rights with the government keen to reduce rights and rid itself of the Human Rights Act (see an item in the minutes for more detail).

Minutes of November group meeting

We are pleased to attach the minutes of the group’s November meeting with thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling them. They contain a lot of interesting material including information about future events, planned or actual, as well as reports on refugees and the death penalty.

Note that the next meeting is December 8th at 2pm. We welcome new members and we hope to see returning ones now that we have shifted to an afternoon slot. We remain concerned about the range of bills and laws the government is planning to pass which will limit our rights to protest and its increasingly authoritarian tone. Refugees remain a live issue receiving much coverage in the media particularly about the boat crossings but who fail to mention the full facts.

Group programme

Group programme events for your diary

We have several events planned and this is a list for your diary. Note that not all are definite yet and are awaiting confirmation in some cases. Once known, they will be posted here.

  • We hope to run a stall in the New Year in the market to raise funds for the Ukrainian human rights trials. We do not have a date for this yet.
  • Write for Rights. A repeat of the event we ran a couple of years ago in the Cathedral Close. 27 November. We await confirmation from the Cathedral. Probably a 11 am start.
  • Evensong at the Cathedral on 24 November. Confirmation awaited.
  • Coffee morning at St Thomas’s Church on 18 February 2023. Confirmed.
  • People in the Park, 20 May 2023. This is the postponed event because of the Queen’s death.

Next group meeting on 10th November at the new start time of 2pm

New meeting time

Monthly meeting time to be changed to 2pm

Since the Salisbury group was formed, it has met in the evenings but at our last meeting (October 2022) it was decided to change it to 2pm from now on. There was a mixture of reasons, some don’t like coming out in the evenings, others have commitments in the evening which made attendance difficult. We have heard that several supporters are more likely to come at that time – we shall see.

If you are interested, let us know via a message on this website, via the Facebook site or by direct contact of course. Venue will be made clear on the agenda, but it is likely to be in Victoria Road for the foreseeable.

We look forward to welcoming anyone new or returning supporters.

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