Tories plot new assault on democracy in 2021

Riot police holding shields
Joe Glenton

Draconian new limits on democratic protest are being planned as the government looks to further lock down dissent in 2021, the Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) has warned.

The civil rights organisation said the government wanted to deliver on a police “wish list” by introducing new legislation. Senior police officers want to amend the Public Order Act 1986, in particular Section 14 which covers protest.  

This could mean new conditions for static protest, including powers to limit the number of participants and duration of a demonstration.

Significant expansion

Netpol said:

It seems the intention is to broaden these powers so they are more like those available for processions, which also allow the police to prohibit a demonstration from entering any specified public place.

The government also wants to change the wording of powers that put conditions on protests. It would broaden the definition from “serious disruption to the life of the community” to “significant disruption”.

Netpol warned:

This would provide senior police officers with greater flexibility to use these powers, although [lowering] the threshold for imposing restrictions does not automatically mean the police can “manage” a protest to their advantage. In April 2019, police issued numerous Section 14 notices against Extinction Rebellion protesters, who refused to comply with them. The proposed changes are simply more likely to give the police the chance to start earlier making a greater number of arrests.

Netpol also claimed that the government wants to:

introduce new grounds for using stop and search powers in order to “prevent significant disruption”, which could include searches for items that protesters could potentially use for direct action or civil disobedience, such as D-locks or climbing equipment.

The policing monitor said this amounted to a “significant expansion of stop and search powers” that will “encourage front-line police officers to search everyone even vaguely associated with a particular protest”.

Completely disproportionate

Netpol coordinator Kevin Blowe told The Canary:

This is unquestionably a reaction by the police specifically to Extinction Rebellion’s protests, in which most arrests were for minor alleged offences, either for breaches of restrictions under Section 14 or for obstruction of the highway.

The fact that senior officers and the Home Secretary have decided citizens taking to the streets to demand government action on catastrophic climate change is some kind of serious threat to democracy and public order is completely disproportionate. It’s a reminder of the ingrained antagonism that exists towards people exercising their rights to freedom of assembly.

Over the last two decades, every new police power has been misused or applied in a way that shows little concern for human rights. It is vital that when new changes are introduced next year, they are actively resisted.

The Protection of the Police and Public Bill is due to be published in 2021. It’s vital that we start organising now to ensure the police don’t get their wish list of protest powers. The right to protest without state interference is a fundamental one. And it’s essential that we don’t allow the Tories to get away with enacting this legislation without a fight.

Featured image via Andrew – Wikimedia Commons

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  • Show Comments
    1. Wouldn’t it be FANTASTIC to have a Govt that reins in police state authoritarianism, taxes the rich instead of the poor, actually gives a sh*t about living conditions and environment for the majority, doesn’t regard every disaster as an opportunity to hand their corporate mates £BNS, and who don’t turn the BBC into a one-sided political mouthpiece?

      Still, at least the morons will get their “Brexshit”.

      1. It would be equally fantastic to have police officers who don’t think they are James Bond or the female equivalent. Self-important, pompous and the final ingredient, which comes from their imperial colleagues, just enough ‘exceptionalism’ to facilitate absolutely no empathy for their fellow citizen’s opinions in action (ie protest/demonstration). A sort of peasant militia to root out and burn ‘heretics’ and ‘witches’. It’s amazing how much seems to remain the same as it perhaps always was… The police are supposed to ‘police by consent’ of the people not the Eton crowd and their cronies.

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