#WEP/IWSG August Challenge – Freedom of Speech

Crime never sleeps.

My apologies for the late appearance of Post IV in this year’s WEP/IWSG challenge – the Year of the Art. My first Covid-19 vaccine knocked me sideways and I’m still recovering – and dreading the second one.

Although this year’s posts are not another ongoing case for Sparkle Anwyl and Kama Pillai of the North Wales Police, I’ve attempted something else involving them.

So, once more I’m going down the stand-alone path with my dynamic Welsh duo.

As always, apologies if I’m slow to respond or slow to visit your posts.

Plus, ensure you visit all the other writers in this challenge via:

https://writeeditpublishnow.blogspot.com

DISRUPTED DIRECTIVE

2014

Friday, 9th May

This shadow is ideal. Perfect for surveillance without drawing attention to ourselves.

Jeans, sweatshirts, and suede jackets ensure Kama and I merge into the crowd gathered in the hall.

The debate has been civil, although the candidates have all made it clear where they stand on Europe.

In versus out. Vocal arguments with tinges of indecision.

But no sign of the anticipated public order threats – yet.

A smartly dressed man in a pale suit smiles at the gathering, pleads with weaving gestures. “We’re British, we’re not European. One language ensures we remain the United Kingdom. Do you want to be ruled by other nations? Forced to speak other languages? We must reject their unjust directives.”

The Green candidate appeals for calm as several people shout from the audience, pointing at the outspoken man.

I turn to Kama. “He’s deliberately provoking us – the Welsh.”

“He’s the intended target – supposedly. Watch for trouble. He’s setting himself up for attacks.”

Two young women leap up, dressed in our norm of black leathers, and shout – in Welsh. “You’re the invader forcing us to accept your rule – talk your language.”

“Speak English, please, not your foreign gibberish. Nobody can understand you. We don’t have translators here like the European Parliament.”

Another candidate, the woman from Plaid Cymru stands and asks first in Welsh. “Stand if you understood these sisters.” Then as almost everyone stands, she adds in English. “Our Brexit colleague has the right of free speech…” She pauses, then continues, “But not the right to claim his language should dominate us. Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon.”

“My apologies. However, isn’t the law upheld in English. What do my seated friends say?”

Before Kama or I can correct his legal presumption as officers who caution bi-lingually, some seated guys leap to their feet.

They mask their faces as they throw projectiles at the dais and into the crowd.

Flour bombs explode.

“Not just flour.” I choke as Kama shoves a scarf on my mouth.

“Tear gas. We need to protect the bigot.”

“Unless he planned this evening.” Blinded by flour and tears,we stumble towards the platform.

No sign of the candidate. Abducted or scarpered?

We keep searching amidst the confusion. No sign of him or the masked bombers.

Image: Bert Kaufmann/Adam Walker

Monday, 12th May

A bolt hole for a scared politician? Or for a devious one?

But the campaign office echoes others I’ve seen. Diligent drones. Harassed helpers. Flyers and posters everywhere. Clicking keyboards.

“Morning officer. Have you arrested those protesters? The ones trying to challenge my freedom of speech?” The instigator ignores my initial attempt to reply and ploughs on. “Flour bombs and tear gas are offensive weapons—”

“We have a couple of protestors in custody.”

He smiles, continuing to ignore the plain clothes officer beside me – Kama. Did he see us at the meeting – together? And standing with the other Welsh speakers? Obviously not.

“Is this one of them? Come to apologise?”

Kama produces her warrant card. “I was hoping you could answer a few questions as I’m leading the investigation. Provoking unlawful violence is a serious offence under the 1986 Public Order Act. A person guilty of such an offence could face imprisonment for six months or a hefty fine. Shall we talk here or have you a separate office, please?”

His demeanour and voice waver. “Well, um… You’d better follow me…officers. Anything to help…resolve any misunderstanding.”

His office is spacious and uncluttered, except for the electoral material promoting his attempt at election in ten days.

He sits behind his desk, waving us to the seats on the other side.

The desk is meant to be formidable and intimidating. But Kama has dented his defences already.

“Those hooligans misunderstood. I have the right to say what I believe – as do they. But throwing an offensive missile must be a crime—”

“As is orchestrating this event. The statements from your supporters make it clear what you intended—”

“My supporters? You must be mistaken. Those were Welsh Nationalists – they deliberately attacked me. My human rights were violated, as they have been throughout this campaign. Abuse, slander, and lies.”

Kama smiles, then turns to me. “Did the flour bombers speak any Welsh, PC Anwyl?”

“Only a few badly constructed and pronounced curses. But they declared their allegiance to a British nationalist cause – like yours, sir.” Then, I give him the statutory caution and warning against further incitement to violence and electoral fraud, adding, “Or we will be obliged to report you to the relevant European authorities.”

He leans forward, but his threatening gesture is empty. “I don’t recognise that authority, but I will prove the people are on my side at the polls. Trust me. Thank you, ladies.”

Dismissed, we stand, satisfied the press coverage of the incident will undermine his chances.

As we leave his bolt hole, I notice a framed print on his wall. Norman Rockwell’s famous “Freedom of Speech” painting. I point at the print, then turn back towards our English fanatic.

“Free Speech – a right none of us should abuse. And to close the debate, I’ll add, Cenedl heb iaith, cenedl heb galon – meaning, ‘A nation without language is a nation without heart’. Remember that.”

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Freedom of Speech,” 1943. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4″ x 35 1/2″. Story illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” February 20, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

878 words FCA

The ‘Freedom of Speech’ prompt triggered thoughts about political hustings in England and Wales as I was involved on the fringes of politics for decades.

As I said in my last WEP/IWSG Challenge post, conservation and environmental threats have concerned me for decades – peace issues included. I was a member of the Green Party for years, involved in various elections – once as a candidate – and worked with Green politicians in other countries, including some elected members of parliaments (Mps and MEPs).

So, I welcomed a chance to involve Sparkle and Kama in an election incident, one that slotted into their storyline – preferably an election I voted in. After some rabbit-hole research into Welsh elections, I chose the 2014 European Elections: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_European_Parliament_election_in_the_United_Kingdom.

In this fictional scenario, I envisaged the provocative right-wing candidate losing – and in reality, the most extreme candidates did lose. But sadly, in my opinion, Britain later left the European Union. Although green in my beliefs, I voted in 2014 for the Plaid candidate, Jill Evans as she was an effective MEP and an active  member of the Green / European Free Alliance (EFA) Group.

20 thoughts on “#WEP/IWSG August Challenge – Freedom of Speech

  1. Well done, Roland. I like this a lot. I read the new Louise Penny book which also deals with a gathering to hear someone ‘speaking out’ on a controversial subject. I thought it would inspire me for this week’s prompt, but sadly, it folded me in on myself.
    Hope the second jab is a minor irritation rather than a big issue.
    Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Roland – it’s good to read your approach to this prompt – thank you … and for reminding me about other aspects of politics. I hope you feel healthier soon – take care and all the best – Hilary

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Hi Roland,
    This is interesting because we live in a time where this is possible and history can repeat itself. Let us hope that history doesn’t repeat itself.
    I hope your reaction to the second vaccination is better.
    Shalom aleichem

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope you are feeling better soon. Loved your take on the prompt. I admire you for your courage. Traveling that path had to have been a nightmare. A topsy-turvy world where up is down and down is up takes a strong heart. Great episode for Sparkle and Kama!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This was so good! It’s amazing the lengths some politicians will go to in order to win elections. Hopefully, having been foiled, this politician’s election bid will prove unsuccessful.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I really liked your interpretation of the prompt. And it is always a pleasure to read about Kama and Sparkle. Well done!
    I hope you feel better soon. Btw, I too was knocked flat after my first dose – fever, chills, delirium, soreness, the works. I was terrified of the second dose , but breezed through it without feeling unwell at all. So it’s not necessary that the second dose always has a more intense reaction is what I’m saying. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Roland, so sorry you had bad side effects to the vaccine. I got sleepy both times which was okay.

    I’m glad you finally felt well enough to share more of Kama and Sparkle with us. And we are increasingly aware of the lengths politicians will go to win elections. Shame!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. So sorry that you reacted badly to your first injection. Here’s hoping that the second shot will be better and that you are SOON feeling totally well.
    Being Welsh myself I love your post! I left Wales when I was 6 never having learned Welsh. So when I returned to Cardiff 16 years later and competed in Bala and Llangollen in canoeing competitions I couldn’t speak to locals. They excluded me by speaking Welsh, yet I was captain of the Welsh National Team!!! …It was very frustrating. So I understand both sides here!
    What is incredibly sad is Brexit.
    Carole

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Hopefully the reaction you had means you are creating antibodies to COVID. Your story on the prompt was great. It made me aware of how the Welsh would feel oppressed by English nationalism and the part about how they were forced to adopt a ‘foreign’ language too.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I’m a little late here, but the mountains were calling, and I went 🙂

    I’m always happy to see more of Sparkle and Kama. And this little election story is all too relevant here in the US still. Exactly where does individual freedom end and social conscience begin?

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Apologies for this late reply to all who commented on my WEP/IWSG post – and for the single reply.

    First, thanks for the encouragement which encourages me to continue writing.

    Second, vaccine update: I’ve recovered from the first shot – thanks. But my wife is struggling to find a way to get me the second. Her grand-daughter who usually helps is quarantined. Sorry Nilanjana, sounds as if your reactions were worse – glad you breezed through second.

    Third, politics: yes, as Olga and others say, too many politicians use the Freedom of Speech slogan for their own ends. Not sure if the voters punish them sufficiently, especially when people like Trump bounce back. I tried to echo current events, but fear that humanity keeps retreading its dark past. As Pat says, “Let us hope that history doesn’t repeat itself”. And Rebecca’s question – ” Exactly where does individual freedom end and social conscience begin?” – is extremely topical with Covid, when those who espouse freedom by not being vaccinated are putting a massive burden on the medical services as they become Covid victims.

    Jemima – I have to admit to never reading Louise Penny, but I’ve now added the Chief Inspector Gamache series to my Wish List, especially as I went to college in Quebec Province.

    Carole – I sympathise over your Welsh language experience – nationalism can make the Welsh annoying too. I had a similar experience with a Dutch friend who chatted with her mates in her language. In fact, she was my first relationship with a lesbian, though not the last. It also led to me learning some Dutch…more than my Welsh phrases.

    Like

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