The recent police crackdown on protesters at the time of the Coronation called into question the future of free speech in this country.

There has been a wholly disproportionate response from government to environmental and other protesters, bringing in ever more draconian policing powers, the latest being the Public Order Act.

Protesters are being routinely arrested for doing very little. A number were arrested at the Coronation event for wearing Just Stop Oil T-shirts. 

The extinguishing of these basic civil rights has been a process underway for many years. But it now seems to have reached a point where dissent is being extinguished altogether.

The problem for a government that tries to wipe out dissent is that it simply takes another form. Traditional forms of protest have been treated with contempt, so led to direct action. If this is then trampled, some other form of dissent will materialise - often violent. 

The answer in a mature confident democracy is to deal with people’s concerns as they are raised. The concerns of the environmental protesters that we are destroying the very planet that all are dependent upon is surely not an  unreasonable request. 

The government response is pretty much head in the sand, keep calm and carry on as usual. Outlaw those raising the concerns.

The media are only interested when protesters take direct action, the many peaceful marches that take place around the UK every week hardly get a mention.

Both media and the political class have to take some responsibility for the situation that now exists.

Moving forward, our basic human rights need restating, the recent restrictions must be repealed.

Confident democracies become more open and accountable when challenged, they do not, close down and target those expressing dissent - that is not a democracy but a police state.

  • Paul Donovan is a Redbridge Labour councillor for Wanstead Village ward and a blogger. See