Irrational and misguided as the aims of anti-science campaign group Speak undoubtedly are, I was appalled by the decision of Thames Valley Police to ban its demonstration from the centre of Oxford (Oxford Mail, July 24).

The 1986 Public Order Act, set up as part of the assault on organised labour in the 1980s, is one of the great draconian attacks on basic liberties in modern Britain.

Among other things (such as the criminalisation of the giving of offence), it empowers the police to strip people of their basic rights that we all should enjoy in a civilised democracy, by allowing them to decide when a protest may or may not take place.

When Chief Supt David McWhirter says the "right to demonstrate is never a blank cheque", he reflects the extent to which our rights are degraded and suspended by this Act.

The freedom to assemble is, in fact, a "blank cheque", which we should be free to "cash" whenever we please, not at the whim of the police.

The worst aspect of the Act is the way it transforms the police, and illiberal individuals like Mr McWhirter, from their proper role as servants of the community, who ought to exist to facilitate the enjoyment of our rights, into overseers, set up over the community to decide when (if at all) we can enjoy those rights.

Much as I disagree with Speak, its members ought to have the right, as should we all, to "disrupt community life" by making their arguments publicly.

It's then up to those of us who disagree to make the counter-argument.

Who wins is up to the court of public opinion - not the police.

Lee Jones, Oxford