It’s not 1938: Is Aston Villa denying free speech, peaceful protest & banners?

The actions of the club, removing banners and man-handling its
own supporters at the Spurs game marks a slide into very dangerous
territory.  Dark, oppressive and insular actions, to stifle open and fair
debate, will win the club no favours and itself acts as a beacon of negative
press for Aston Villa.

The ‘Lerner Out’ banners,
inoffensive statements requesting an AWOL owner release our club from his
clutches, are apparently removed under instruction from the clubs hierarchy.

Has Randy Lerner, a disinterested and distant figure really
asked that any negative reference to him displayed in the ground be removed?
 If so, it would stand as a pathetic intervention from a man who barely
takes an interest in matters.  Indeed, it is debatable whether his stock
could get much lower, banners or not.

The other possibility is equally depressing.  Has someone
at a high level within the club taken it upon themselves to oppress free speech
within one of the greatest and proudest football clubs in football? On who’s
authority?  And with what moral justification?

Ultimately, it is ill conceived and self-defeating.

By trying to suppress views in the stadium, the club will incite
not only anger, but a determination from fans to double their efforts.
 For every solitary banner torn from the hands of a supporter, two will

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Further, for a club that is prone to public relations failings
continually, will it ever learn its lesson?  Did anyone seriously think
that in the age of smartphones and the worlds media focused on Premier League
games that these pathetic interventions wouldn’t be beamed around the globe?

The current hierarchy needs to take a long, hard look at exactly
what is trying to enforce.  You cannot hide from the truth or bury the
facts when they are plain for all to see.  It might work in North Korea,
China or indeed Russia, but freedom of expression is something that is not just
taken for granted in this country; people served & died to protect it.
 Aston Villa players amongst them.

Indeed, Aston Villa has a proud history of standing up for free
speech, most notably when on a tour of Nazi Germany in 1938 as diplomatic
tensions simmered pre-war.

Despite the then England team being ordered to salute the Nazi’s
prior to their match, Aston Villa refused to do so before its own fixtures.
 The second occasion, the Villa players actually gave a two finger salute
to the regime.  It stands as a remarkable gesture with the benefit of
historical hindsight.

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In terms of Aston Villa fans holding up banners to air our
displeasure at the current demise of the club, this is small fry by comparison.
 But the principle is the same.  There is nothing to say that we
cannot, or indeed should not air our views, peacefully and proportionately.
 There is every reason why we should without fear.

On this basis, despite all affronts to it, we will continue to
do just that, in greater numbers and with the determination to see it through.
 Aggressive, targeted, hands on attempts to stop this will be
unsuccessful. That is an absolute given.  Our many voices outnumber the
few who wish to silence us.

Aston Villa has a proud heritage.  It has stood up for the
right issues, been central to it’s local community and always, without fail,
done the right thing for honourable reasons.

In conducting itself as it has done in recent seasons, Aston
Villa’s hierarchy brings shame upon our previously unblemished standing in the
game.  We are ridiculed for our performances on the pitch, but now also have
our ethical position brought under the spotlight.  

Lerner should hang his
head, fall to his knees to apologise for his horrendous custodianship and end
the stranglehold he has imposed upon Aston Villa. 

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