The terrifyingly authoritarian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has reached its remaining stages in the House of Commons. Protesters gathered at Parliament Square while police vehicles lined up down Whitehall, as far as the eye could see. Inside parliament, discussion on the bill only began at 3.30pm. This barely gave MPs any time at all to discuss the 300-page bill, let alone put forward amendments.
But even if MPs are able to rush through some key amendments, this won’t be good enough. We want to see the bill scrapped, and we will fight it to the bitter end.
Probably the biggest attack on our freedoms since the Public Order Acts of the ‘80s and ‘90s, the bill will give police new powers to clamp down on protests. Network For Police Monitoring (Netpol) says:
the Bill introduces new powers for policing demonstrations and makes huge changes to public order legislation to allow police to criminalise anyone using civil disobedience and direct action tactics.
A racist bill being brought in by a racist government
But of course, it isn’t just our right to protest that’s at stake. Marginalised communities will be the most adversely affected by the bill – and it’s up to all of us to defend them. Netpol told The Canary:
While we welcome MPs’ calls to protect the right to protest, Netpol is calling for this Bill to be scrapped in its entirety. Even if draconian new police powers to restrict protest were removed, the Bill’s racist crackdown on Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, as well as new measures which would see an increase in harsh criminal sentencing and an expansion to stop and search powers, much be challenged.
Through the bill, the government will introduce Serious Violence Reduction Orders. These would give police significantly more power to stop and search people on the street. It is, of course, Black people who will be disproportionately affected. Statistics from 2019 showed that Black people were 9.7 times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched.
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Travellers rights are human rights
Moreover, the bill will enable authorities to seize the vehicles of traveller communities. This would effectively mean they would be stealing homes and making families homeless. And those who don’t immediately leave a piece of land could face arrest or imprisonment, merely on the suspicion of causing antisocial behaviour.
As it stands, there aren’t enough legal sites for travellers to reside, making a nomadic way of life almost impossible in the UK. And this is exactly what Patel and Johnson want: any remnant of a non-conventional way of living stamped out forever.
Fight to the end
But Traveller communities will not give up without a fight. Drive To Survive is a coalition of Romany Gypsy, Irish Traveller and Roma activists and community organisations. They say that they’re “determined to use peaceful protest and civil disobedience to highlight this threat to the freedoms of all people”. On Wednesday 7 July, they’ll gather in Parliament Square to Kill The Bill, and they want you to join them:
Today the #PolicingBill returns to parliament. On Wednesday the @Drive2Survive3 campaign will launch its summer of discontent in Parliament Square. For the love of freedom please join us. @zarahsultana @BellRibeiroAddy pic.twitter.com/MhN5Ux22O6
— Jake Bowers (@bowers_jake) July 5, 2021
The government has been at the receiving end of countless criticisms over the bill, from campaigners, lawyers, politicians and NGOs. But despite all opposition, Patel and the Tory government continue to push on in what looks like an attempt to create their own warped, fascist state. It’s vital that we join the final protests as we continue to fight this draconian bill.
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