Exclusive: The authorities banned activists from discussing slavery reparations at a public event
The authorities imposed an illegal ban of a scheduled broadcast of a speech by controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan on the topic of transatlantic slavery reparations at a public event in 2017 – and further prohibited all of the Nation of Islam members from discussing the issue.
During a High Court hearing on Monday, the judge declared that both parties had “unlawfully infringed the claimants’ rights act under the Human Rights Acts 1998, namely article 9 and article 10.”
The Africa International Day of Action event was given permission to be held at Kennington Park in south London, but the authorities imposed the restrictions on topics of discussion citing concerns because of controversy surrounding Minister Farrakhan.
The claimants argue that this was a “blanket” ban of their right to free speech and launched a civil claim in the High Court for breach of their Human Rights Act, under article 9 which denotes religious, social and political expression, and Article 10 which entails freedom of speech rights.
Both the Met and Lambeth accepted liability, settling out of court, and damages of up to £1 million will be paid to the claimants who are comprised of members of the Nation of Islam and the Rastafarian Movement UK.
Minister Farrakhan, 86, has previously made offensive remarks about Jewish communities and has been banned from entering the UK since 2002.
Though organisers assured the authorities that the religious leader would only speak upon the topic of reparations, the Met and Lambeth disallowed both the minister and anyone in attendance from addressing the issue.
On the day, officers attended to ensure compliance.
Speaking to The Independent, Solicitor Andre Clovis, who represented the claimants, said: “My clients only wanted to speak about reparations for the historical and ongoing effects of slavery.
“They wanted to discuss self-help and others in the black community wanted to hear what Minister Louis Farrakhan had to say on that subject alone. This is not controversial, in fact it is discussed and debated in the black community, in some of our most prestigious universities, between historical and political experts and on the political stage domestically and internationally.
“Lambeth Council and the Metropolitan Police in removing the Claimants’ ability to speak their minds, sought to suppress their ability to think about matters of central importance to their very being.”
Mr Clovis said that Lambeth Council and the police have spent somewhere between £1.3m – £1.5 fighting this case since 2017, denying all wrongdoing, which “served to add to the insult my clients’ felt and was a gross abuse of public funds; being deployed not for the benefit of their local community, but to conceal wrongdoing and protect their reputations.”
A Met Police spokesperson told The Independent: “The MPS has settled a civil claim with certain participants of an event held in Kennington Park in 2017. The claim arose from restrictions placed by Lambeth Council upon a license application, following objections to that license by Lambeth Council’s Community Safety Area Team and the MPS.
“It was agreed that the MPS had concerns about public disorder arising from a counter-protest at the event. However, the balancing of those concerns against the claimants’ convention rights should have been evaluated in a different way.
“In light of this, the MPS accepted there had been breaches of Article 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”
A Lambeth council spokesperson said: “This settlement resolves an issue of dispute which has rumbled on for too long. The council accepts that an error was made in the setting of conditions which prevented the broadcast of a speech by Minister Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam.
“The council accepts that the broadcast should have been permitted. Lambeth council is keen to move ahead in a positive spirit and will engage with the Nation of Islam following this litigation. While doing so, we reinforce and re-state our commitment to equality and equity and it is on that positive and clear basis that we now move forward.”
Damages of over £900,000 will be paid, the court heard.