17 March 2021 — Global Justice Now
The UK government is rushing through new anti-protest laws which could ban protests that are too noisy or annoying – surely the definition of a good protest? The ridiculous and outrageous proposals would “make a dictator blush”, according to one MP, but last night Conservative MPs voted them through their first stage in parliament.
Priti Patel’s proposals are a brazen attack on the right to protest which will make it easier for the government and corporations to stifle dissent. The 307-page bill, introduced just last week, will give the police more powers to harass and disrupt protests – and threatens up to 10 years in prison for causing “serious annoyance”. That’s why we’ve joined with 150 other organisations to warn that the bill represents “an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens”.
On Saturday in London we saw how the police can’t be trusted to use the powers they already have over protests, with the shameful treatment of women at a vigil on Clapham Common. Instead of facilitating a socially distanced event as happened elsewhere, a protest about violence against women ended with state-sanctioned violence against women. The last thing we should be doing is giving the police permanent new powers to restrict the right to protest.
Many of us have taken part in the Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter protests – or cheered them on – which Priti Patel claims have helped spark this bill. But it is a sad indictment of this government that it is doing precious little to tackle climate breakdown, structural racism or male violence at the same time as launching this assault on our ability to protest about it.
We have a chance to stop this. Although the bill has passed the first stage in parliament, there are several further stages to go. Already in just a few days there has been a public outcry and awareness is spreading – now we need to demonstrate broad and deep public opposition. You can start by adding your name to the urgent petition.
Global Justice Now
1. New anti-protest bill raises profound concern and alarm, human rights groups say, 14 March 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/mar/14/new-anti-protest-bill-raises-profound-concern-human-rights-groups-say
2. If you thought the right to protest was inalienable, then think again, 14 March 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/14/if-you-thought-the-right-to-protest-was-inalienable-then-think-again?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other
3. Sisters Uncut: Without the right to protest women have everything to lose, 15 March 2021, https://inews.co.uk/opinion/women-right-protest-policing-crime-bill-sarah-everard-vigil-914008
4. Why the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is a harmful piece of legislation, Friends of the Earth, https://friendsoftheearth.uk/system-change/why-police-crime-sentencing-and-courts-bill-harmful-piece-legislation-1
5. Anti-protest Police Bill ‘that would make a dictator blush’ passes Commons vote, 16 March 2021, https://www.mirror.co.uk/news/politics/breaking-anti-protest-police-bill-23740625