A coalition of United for Black Lives, Extinction Rebellion and other groups have arranged demonstration, but have been forced by police harassment to remain semi-anonymous
A coalition of human rights groups have arranged a series of ‘Kill the Bill’ protests to be held on Saturday 3 April at 1pm in London and other cities across the UK. The groups say they have been forced to withhold full details of the organisers by coordinated police harassment of their leaders, particularly younger activists.
Below is their press release in full:
YOUR RIGHT TO PROTEST IS UNDER ATTACK
On Tuesday the 16th of March the UK Government rushed through the newly introduced Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill to committee stage. The 300-page bill was introduced the week earlier, giving very little time for scrutiny from MPs, before the second reading began on the 15th. The bill, among other things, seeks to overhaul the Public Order Act 1986 and puts the right to peacefully protest and assemble in the UK under serious threat.
Peaceful protest forms an important cornerstone of our democracy. It allows the public to express their dissatisfaction with the government at large and is the only way we can seek to hold our leaders to account when they systematically fail us. In fact, only last year the current Policing Minister, Kit Malthouse, stated that “The right to peaceful protest is a fundamental tool of civic expression, and will never be curtailed by this government.”
However, the newly introduced bill seeks to do just that and effectively neuter the power of peaceful protest in this country. The amendments to the Public Order Act will allow police to set restrictions to peaceful protest at their own discretion. These restrictions include the location and duration of the protest alongside noise levels generated by the protest. Furthermore, the police can choose to criminalise a protest on the basis that it is causing “serious annoyance” or “serious inconvenience”.
These wide reaching and broad-brush definitions are ripe for misinterpretation and misuse by an increasingly authoritarian government. The terms stated above effectively allow the state to criminalise any peaceful protest if they choose to. This coupled with soaring fines and prison terms for those caught in breach of these laws set a worrying precedent for the future of our democracy.
In short protest is hereby banned unless sanctioned by the state.
FURTHER OPPRESSION OF MARGINALISED GROUPS
This isn’t the only human rights abuse committed by the bill which also seeks to criminalise the lifestyle of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities and hand more powers to the police regarding stop and search.
GRT communities are among some of the most marginalised groups within our society. This bill would introduce the offence of “residing on land without consent in or with a vehicle”. If found guilty of this offence a person could be fined up to £2500, have their vehicle confiscated alongside not being allowed to return to the area for 12 months. For GRT communities this creates the threat of receiving a hefty fine alongside having their homes confiscated and being forced to leave an area. Their vehicles would remain confiscated throughout criminal proceedings which would potentially leave people homeless for months on end. This is in direct opposition to the ruling of the Court of Appeals decision that “the Gypsy and Traveller community have an enshrined freedom not to stay in one place but to move from one place to another.”
The introduction of Serious Violence Reduction Orders (SVROs) would allow the police to stop and search someone anytime, anywhere without any reasonable suspicion. Undoubtedly this would further the discrimination experienced by ethnic minority and low-income communities and increase the racial gap in our society by funnelling more young people into the criminal justice system for petty crimes.
The initial consultation document recognised that a disproportionate number of black men may be impacted by SVROs. The fact that black people are nearly 9 times more likely to be subject to a stop and search than white people, and other people of colour are over 4 times more likely to be targeted by the power, shows us the reality of the situation. How can the government entertain giving more powers to a racist police force to racially discriminate?
USE IT OR LOSE IT
Already we have seen massive pushback to this bill up and down the country. Demonstrations have sprung up in London, Manchester, Bristol, Brighton, Cardiff and Newcastle. These demonstration have seen a wide range of activist groups coming together including BLM Groups, feminist organisations like Sisters Uncut and climate groups such as Extinction Rebellion. On March the 15th as the second reading of the bill commenced a joint letter signed by more than 100 activist groups was published in the opposition to this bill. From this initial pushback the government has already decided to alter the progression of the bill with many government ministers suggesting that the Joint Committee on Human Rights may decide to remove many of these more serious threats to protest.
Although this is a promising start the fight isn’t over yet. It is vital that we keep up the pressure on the government to make them understand that we will not allow our democratic rights to be taken from us. Kill the Bill are staging a day of nationwide action up and down the country on Saturday the 3rd of April starting at 1pm. Actions are already in motion in cities such as London and Leeds with more to follow. Kill the Bill are a Black-led coalition of activist groups which expresses the solidarity necessary to challenge this bill and build links for future actions.
Let us know if your organisation or group will be joining us on this day of action. If you are interested in holding your own day or action in your own local area, please drop us a message on our socials!
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