Anger as police arrest man over burning poppy on Facebook
Picture of burning poppy sparks outrage, but so does over-the-top police reaction
A KENT man has been arrested after he posted a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook, sparking an impassioned debate over freedom of speech on social networking sites.
The man, named by the Daily Mail as 19-year-old Linford House, was arrested on Remembrance Sunday on suspicion of 'malicious telecommunications' after the picture was uploaded along with the message: "How about that you squadey [sic] c***s".
But despite outrage over his actions, it is the police who have been condemned for arresting the man.
Australian comedian Tim Minchin was one of the first to react to the news on Twitter. "You've a right to burn a (fake!) poppy," he wrote. "Whether I agree with the action is utterly irrelevant. Kent police are out of line."
New Statesman legal blogger David Allen Green also weighed in. "What was the point of winning either World War if, in 2012, someone can be casually arrested by @kent_police for burning a poppy?" he asked.
Although the teenager's actions were roundly condemned, there was a groundswell of anger at the actions of the police.
Freedom of speech campaigners added their voice to the chorus of disapproval. Index on Censorship told The Guardian: "News of this arrest is very worrying. Index hopes that when the CPS issues its guidelines on free speech later this month, due regard will be given to free speech online."
Another civil liberties group, Big Brother Watch, told The Daily Telegraph the arrest was ridiculous. "It is not illegal to offend people and, however idiotic or insensitive the picture may have been, it is certainly not worthy of arrest," it said.
There was even concern among the readers of the Daily Mail. "We're one step away from thought-crime. How did we let this happen?" said one commenter underneath the paper's story.
However, it is not the first time police have taken action over poppy-related protests. Last year there were several arrests in Northern Ireland after pictures of a burning poppy were posted on Facebook, and Emdadur Choudhury, a member of Muslims Against Crusades, was fined £50 and convicted of a public order offence for burning replica poppies on Remembrance Day in London in 2011.