Thursday, 28 April 2022 — NetPol
It’s time for collective solidarity
On 28th April, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill received Royal Assent. Thousands of us took to the streets to resist this draconian legislation. But the battle against the bill was never going to be won in parliament, and it’s now down to all of us to make it unenforceable on the streets.
Firstly, don’t panic! Protest has not suddenly become illegal. However the new measures mean that the police will have new poorly defined powers. In practice, the police will choose when and how to impose restrictions on protests and this is likely to lead to widespread abuse of these powers
If you’re going to a protest, knowing your rights will become more important than ever. New police powers aim to further criminalise protesters who use direct action or civil disobedience tactics. New legal resources will be published soon.
Netpol will be launching its Defending Dissent campaign next week. Stay tuned for new resources and how you can get involved in the campaign.
We also anticipate a significant increase in police surveillance on the potential targets of the new powers. We need a greater awareness of the basic security practices that can help us challenge police intelligence gathering. Netpol’s new guide to resisting police surveillance will also be published next week.
Police powers must be challenged. The new police powers are broad and badly defined. For example, whether a protest is too noisy or disruptive is highly subjective and therefore open to challenge on the streets and in the courts. At what point is noise deemed excessive?
We need to gather evidence of how these powers are used inconsistently. We know the police abuse the powers they already have. What will happen now they’ve got new ones?
Let Netpol know if and when you start seeing these new powers being used and abused.
Our power is in collective solidarity
Most importantly, we need to act in solidarity with each other. The new protest powers are far more likely to affect those challenging corporate power or those who already experience the racism and prejudices of the police. We musn’t be divided into good and bad protesters or those taking part in “legal” or “illegal” protests. We need to offer each other our support. Our strength and our ability to challenge this legislation depends on this collective solidarity.
And we need to remember this bill isn’t just about protest. We need to extend this solidarity to marginalised communities who’ll bear the brunt of other powers in this Act. In particular, we must support Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities whose way of life is criminalised with the new trespass with intent to reside provisions of the Act.
The Policing Bill receiving royal assent is not the end of the fight against this legislation. It’s the beginning of a new fight to challenge how it’s used on the streets and in our communities.