Our right to protest is under attack. Protest is being criminalised and it’s urgent that we act now before it’s too late.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is being rushed through parliament. It will give the police powers to impose conditions on protests that they view as too noisy or cause “serious unease”.
The Bill will ban protests that block roads around Parliament. It also allows the police to impose conditions on one-person protests. And it will introduce a new offence, punishable by up to ten years in prison, of ‘public nuisance’ for actions that cause “serious distress”, “serious annoyance”, “serious inconvenience”. Yes, that’s right. If you cause serious annoyance on a protest, you could go to jail for a decade!
Oh, and then there’s the ten year sentences for damaging a memorial or statue. Yep – you could get a longer sentence for damaging an inanimate object than the average sentence given to rapists.
Home secretary Priti Patel doesn’t like protests. She thinks Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter protesters are ‘extremists’. She wants the police to take more action against anyone who dares to stand up to this government.
Meanwhile, a government report into policing is labelling anyone who takes direct action as an “aggravated activist”. It states that the police have gone too far in allowing protests to go ahead. It is also calling for increased surveillance, including the use of facial recognition technology on demonstrations.
Make no mistake. This is the biggest threat to our freedom to protest that we’ve seen in generations. The police already abuse their powers. This new bill will give them unprecedented power to crackdown on protests. The UK has a long and proud history of protest. And it’s through taking to the streets that we’ve won many of the rights that we now take for granted.
Our opposition to this bill cannot wait. We need to take action now before many of us end up behind bars for trying to make the world a better place.
The Network for Police Monitoring is leading the fight against these extra powers with a charter that calls for the protection of protestors’ rights. Over 150,000 people have already supported the campaign to protect the right to protest.
Get involved today and stop this bill becoming law!
By Emily Apple
This post was originally published on The Canary.