The new policing bill is threatening to crack down on the freedom to protest. It will give police officers more power to restrict demonstrations. It is an unprecedented attack on civil liberties.
Time and again those involved in policing demonstrations have abused their powers with heavy handed tactics. We saw it during the Black Lives Matter protests, and we saw it again last weekend with the Sarah Everard vigil, both at times when officers should be supporting people safely.
Peaceful protest is our right, and we cannot allow that to be taken away. Protests are the heartbeat of democracy. Protests are human rights beating to live.
‘Hidden in this Bill are proposals to give the police powers to effectively silence peaceful protest. If this was happening in any other country, like Russia or Myanmar, we would rightly be outraged. But it is happening here, in what is supposed to be a liberal democracy.
Two particular sections of this Bill dramatically increase the conditions that can be imposed on protests, including when it is deemed too ‘noisy’ or is causing ‘serious disruption’ to people in the vicinity. In other words, when the demonstration is having an impact.
There’s no objective measure of what is too noisy, nor the level of disruption. It’ll be left to the Home Secretary to decide what ‘serious disruption’ means – in the words of the Bill, she can ‘make provision about the meaning’ of the phrase with no requirement for her to return to Parliament if she wants to change it.
As it stands, if a protester’s loud hailer is making it difficult for a passer-by to have a conversation on their mobile phone, that could potentially be used by police to shut down the demonstration.’