As with an increasing number of cases in the United Kingdom: It began with a tweet.
Ultimately, British Army Veteran Darren Brady, 51, would find himself handcuffed and being loaded into the back of a patrol car. Everything that happened in between has drawn both attention and scorn from both sides of the Atlantic.
Brady was placed under arrest on Friday at his home in Aldershot, Hampshire, England, after he retweeted a post on Twitter that reportedly made another person anxious, according to Hampshire police in a widely shared video of the arrest.
The tweet in question was a digitally manipulated image of several pride flags arranged to form a swastika.
"Someone has been caused anxiety based on your social media post, that’s why you’ve being arrested" -@HantsPolice
Read it & weep!😭
— The Reclaim Party (@thereclaimparty) July 30, 2022
In the course of the arrest, Brady can be heard asking officers why he’s been placed in handcuffs. One officer responded, “It didn’t have to come to this at all.”
“Tell us why you escalated it to this level because I don’t understand,” Brady answered him.
“Someone has been caused anxiety based upon your social media post,” the arresting officer replied. “That is why you have been arrested.”
Former Police Officer Harry Miller was also placed under arrest for attempting to put a stop to the arrest, Miller told the Daily Mail.
“Hampshire Police showed a blatant disregard of the law. They approached Mr. Brady and acted as summary judge, jury, and executioner — but didn’t know what offense he’d actually committed. They said he was being arrested for causing anxiety, which is utterly ridiculous,” Miller stated.
“Mr. Brady is a British Army Veteran and they were trying to extort him for money by making him pay around [$97] for educational course so he could downgrade from a crime to a non-crime, which would still show up in a basic Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check,” he continued.
“They thought they could get away with it. It was the world’s worst shakedown.”
Miller allegedly placed himself between Hampshire Police officers and Brady and said, “You arrest him, you’ve got to come through me.”
Brady’s arrest — utterly Orwellian and disturbing as it was — seems to have provided more fuel to a burgeoning fire in the U.K. Growing resentment toward authoritarian hate-speech laws has taken hold and is solidifying into a new political movement.
“Someone has been caused anxiety based on your social media post. And that is why you’re being arrested.” British policing, 2022. pic.twitter.com/D4MZhbXq08
— Paul Embery (@PaulEmbery) July 30, 2022
Brady shared a meme that was initially posted by Laurence Fox, an actor who has since turned to politics and founder and leader of The Reclaim Party — a political effort to push back against the increasing wave of wokeness and the suppression of freedom of expression. Fox is starring in the upcoming film “My Son Hunter” as Hunter Biden.
Fox posted a video on Twitter in response to Brady’s arrest. He tagged Fair Cop and the Bad Law Project which are two organizations that promote free speech in the U.K.
Mounting pressure from these groups — among others — seems to have prompted Donna Jones, police and crime commissioner (PCC) for Hampshire, to respond to the incident with an unexpected reprimand for her department.
When we stand together against tyranny, we beat it together.
Be warned all Woke Gestapos who wish to police the inside of our heads and trample on our hard fought for rights for free expression.@BadLawTeam @thereclaimparty @WeAreFairCop are coming for you. pic.twitter.com/z2dRaCONke
— Laurence Fox (@LozzaFox) July 29, 2022
“I am concerned about both the proportionality and necessity of the police’s response to this incident,” Jones said in a statement. “When incidents on social media receive not one but two visits from police officers, but burglaries and nondomestic break-ins don’t always get a police response, something is wrong.”
The BBC has since reported that Brady has been released from police custody and is not facing any charges stemming from the incident.
A Hampshire Police Department representative told the press, “We are engaging further with our police and crime commissioner to make sure that we deploy our resource in a way that reflects the need in our local communities.”
The move by Commissioner Jones, while a small one, is reverberating through British media, political, law enforcement and legal circles and could signal a departure from the policies that found a comedian, Mark Meechan, guilty of a hate crime. He taught his girlfriend’s pug a Nazi salute as a joke in 2016.