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Protest site shut over alleged police ‘intimidation’

Parking clowns eclipsed by new development

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The Parking Clowns Web site - which ridicules the parking policies of Canterbury City Council and its "over zealous [traffic] wardens" - has been suspended following allegations of police intimidation.

Schoolmaster Gareth Thomas, the author of Parking Clowns, claims Kent Police are "watching the site like hawks" and believes it is just a matter of time before they shut down the site and prosecute him.

Mr Thomas told The Register: "They have intimidated me off the Internet."

What started as a local site dealing with concerns over local parking regulations has now erupted into something that touches major issues such as freedom of speech and censorship.

The site was pulled last week after Mr Thomas was again contacted by police concerning the site.

Then, during an interview on a local radio station a statement read out from Kent police stated that it had never tried to interfere with the Canterbury Parking Clowns web site.

But this denial didn't chime with Mr Thomas' own experiences, since police had been in contact with him on a number of occasions concerning the content of the site.

He wrote on his site: "Is this new interference their way of showing they have read Kafka and want me to think I am imagining things? Or is the intention to show that they are watching the site and are waiting to pounce? Plain old-fashioned intimidation. Whatever their motives, I am suspending the web site today pending legal advice and an enquiry to the Home Office."

He added: "There does not appear to exist in Kent the freedom to publish a web site about parking issues without attracting police surveillance and intimidation."

A spokesperson for Kent police said they took the allegations of police intimidation very seriously and would be investigating this.

They denied it was their intention to close down the site but conceded that they were concerned that people were not harassed by what was on the site.

In July the original Canterbury Parking Clowns Web site was closed down following complaints by the City Council.

The presence of photographs of traffic wardens was deemed to be an offence under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997.

Police warned that the widespread use of the term "Parking Clowns" to describe the traffic wardens was unsatisfactory since it could lead to a "breach of the peace and possible violence". ®

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