News & Current Affairs

June 21, 2009

Stonehenge crowds cause gridlock

Filed under: Latest, Reviews, Travel — Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , — expressyoureself @ 5:17 am

Stonehenge crowds cause gridlock

Summer Solstice at Stonehenge

A huge crowd gathered to witness the dawn of the longest day

Thousands of people have flocked to Stonehenge in Wiltshire to celebrate the Summer Solstice, causing roads in the area to become gridlocked.

English Heritage, which manages the ancient monument, said the car parks were full hours before sunrise.

Crowds who made it through the traffic saw Druid ceremonies at the stones as the sun rose on the longest day.

Earlier, Wiltshire Police said they expected numbers for the event to exceed last year’s figure of 30,000.

The event to mark the dawn of the longest day in the Northern Hemisphere has grown in popularity since a four-mile exclusion zone around the site was lifted nine years ago.

Police for the most part are wishing people a happy Solstice and so are the security guards
Druid King Arthur Pendragon

Police drafted in extra officers and warned warmer weather and the fact that the event falls on a weekend would increase numbers further.

They also said there would be a zero tolerance approach to drugs and drunkenness, with an alcohol limit of four cans of beer or a bottle of wine per person imposed by English Heritage.

Druid King Arthur Pendragon told the news shortly before sunrise: “It’s a very nice atmosphere and everything’s fine at the moment.

“There have been more police present this year, more security, but everything’s passed off very jovially and everyone’s in a good mood.

“And the police for the most part are wishing people a happy Solstice and so are the security guards.”

English Heritage issued an advisory note to visitors which warned: “The police will be on site during the access period and will take immediate action against anyone flouting the law.

“Summer Solstice is not a good time to experiment with drugs – the crowd, the noise and the sheer size of the place are likely to make any bad reaction much, much worse.”

Meanwhile, a limit of 200 tents was set at a field near the Avebury Ring after residents complained about the number of visitors to that site in 2008.


Are you celebrating the solstice? Let us know about your experience

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August 14, 2008

Protests still unwelcome in Beijing

Protests still unwelcome in Beijing

Courtesy BBC

China has set aside three parks during the Olympics, to allow people to demonstrate. But, as the BBC’s Michael Bristow finds out, the parks are empty and those who apply for permission to protest are even finding themselves arrested.

Model of the Capitol building in Washington DC, Shijie Park

Shijie Park is full of tourists admiring model buildings rather than protesters

Just before the Olympic Games began, officials said ordinary Chinese people would be able to apply for permission to vent their feelings.

But several would-be demonstrators appear to have been detained by the authorities after trying to apply for that permission.

This is just one way in which China is attempting to restrict embarrassing protests during the Olympic Games.

“The protest application process clearly isn’t about giving people greater freedom of expression, but making it easier for the police to suppress it,” said Sophie Richardson, from Human Rights Watch.

One of those detained is Zhang Wei, who was held after applying to stage a protest about her family’s forced eviction from their courtyard home.

map

Her son, Mi Yu, said she was initially supposed to be held for just three days for “disturbing social order”, but that that had now been extended to 30 days.

Ms Zhang, forced to move to make way for redevelopment in Beijing’s Qianmen district, made several protest applications.

“She went every two or three days after seeing a report about the parks. But the police did not give their approval,” Mr Mi said.

His mother was taken away last week. The family have not heard from her since.

Many obstacles

Another activist held after making a protest application was Ji Sizun, who was detained on Monday, according to Human Rights Watch.

The 58-year-old, from Fujian province, wanted to call for greater participation by ordinary people in the political process.

Citing witnesses, the rights group said Mr Ji was taken away shortly after entering a Beijing police station to ask about his application.

This application process is a taxing one. Would-be protesters even have to tell police what posters and slogans they intend to use.

There have been reports of others who have been prevented from staging protests in the designated areas.

Some have just had their applications turned down, one was sent back to her home province and yet others have been stopped from travelling to Beijing.

Confusion

The parks designated as protest zones – Shijie, Zizhuyuan and Ritan – do not seem to have been inundated with protesters.

Free Tibet

There has been the occasional protest by pro-Tibet campaigners

At Shijie (“World”) Park on Wednesday one worker said there had not been a single demonstration since the Olympics began.

Potential protesters might have been put off by the police car and van parked directly outside the main entrance of the park, which houses large models of famous world sites.

No one seemed to know where a protest could be held, even if Beijing’s Public Security Bureau gave its approval.

“I don’t know anything about that,” said a ticket collector when asked where protesters could express their opinions.

It was a similar story at Ritan Park, where there seems to have been no protests either.

Dissuading people from protesting is just one tactic being used by China’s security forces to prevent demonstrations.

Beijing’s streets are full of police, other security personnel and volunteers, wearing red armbands, on the lookout for trouble.

Eight pro-Tibet demonstrators from Students for a Free Tibet were quickly detained on Wednesday after staging a protest.

Some well-known Chinese activists have also been told to keep a low profile during the Olympics. The friend of one said she had decided to leave the city during the Olympics to avoid trouble.

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