Join us for an in-person event in central London, or online if you prefer, to explore the lines between freedom of speech and the right to protest.
Most of us can agree that freedom of speech and the right to protest are fundamental to democracy but our shared notions of what is permissible are often tested in the face of actual speech and real-life protests. Recent tactics employed by environmental campaigners have introduced new dilemmas for the public, the police and for law-makers, where extended or repeated disruptions to the daily life of some citizens are balanced against the right of other citizens to raise their political or moral concerns in the public domain. The debate over abortion clinic ‘buffer zones’ has also thrown up many important questions about speech and protest. What constitutes speech – does it include images, silent prayer, singing? Should legislation deal explicitly with the activities of campaigners motivated by a particular set of beliefs? How does the location and context of speech affect society’s willingness to tolerate it?
We have brought together a panel to help us explore these questions – we do not anticipate easy answers! We have two of the main protagonists in the ‘buffer zones’ debate. Ryan Christopher, director of pro-life group ADF International, opposes what his organisation terms ‘censorship zones’ on free speech grounds. Ann Furedi, former chief executive of BPAS, Britain’s leading abortion provider, describes herself as a ‘free speech absolutist’ but argues that the targeting of abortion clinic staff and patients by campaigners should not be tolerated. Their fellow interlocutors are Bryn Harris, the FSU’s Chief Legal Counsel and FSU Case Officer Tim Cruddas, who was a serving police officer for 26 years and has, on numerous occasions, been responsible for the policing of protests and other public order incidents.
Ryan Christopher is director of ADF International in the UK (Alliance Defending Freedom). ADF is a faith-based legal advocacy organization that protects fundamental freedoms and promotes the inherent dignity of all people. Ryan leads the ADF UK’s advocacy efforts and acts as a liaison for politicians, media, and other NGO allies working on shared mission issues. He also writes on the relationship between philosophy, law, and freedom of expression.
Tim has recently retired from a long career in the Metropolitan Police – mostly in Counter Terrorism and Domestic Extremism; including 4 years in the Intelligence Unit of the Met’s Public Order Branch. This involved working on many major public order operations – including the 2010 student riots, the 2011 royal wedding and the 2012 Olympics. He is a strong proponent of Free Speech within the law and is able to offer a useful “Police perspective” in FSU matters.
Ann Furedi is the author of The Moral Case for Abortion. Ann ran the British Pregnancy Advisory Service (bpas), which provides about half of all abortions in Britain, for almost two decades. She recently completed a masters degree in philosophy and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Science by Kent University for her work on abortion law and ethics.
Bryn has worked as chief legal counsel of the Free Speech Union since 2020. He was called to the Bar of England and Wales in 2018, and before that he did a doctorate in classics at the University of Oxford. In a previous life he was a linguist and has worked as a translator and lexicographer. Bryn’s main interests are in law, philosophy and literature, and he has a particular interest in the law and practice surrounding academic freedom of speech.