Suella Braverman is set to carry on the draconian work of Priti Patel

Suella Braverman and Priti Patel look in to the camera
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Suella Braverman has been busy with a raft of characteristically draconian policies. In view of climate protests from Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion amongst others, Braverman is set to push forward the government’s anti-protest agenda. The BBC reported that:

Suella Braverman says the new Public Order Bill will stop demonstrators holding the public “to ransom”.

Ministers will be empowered to block protests causing “serious disruption” to key infrastructure and goods.

What is the Public Order Bill?

Priti Patel oversaw the widely derided Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Act. As Eliza Egret explained:

the act will affect our right to protest. But until we’re on the streets, we won’t know exactly what we’ll be arrested for. This is because the act is – in many sections – ambiguous, and will give police forces the freedom to interpret the law as they see fit.

Earlier this year, the Canary’s Emily Apple explained how the government was using the Public Order Bill to enact amendments that did not pass in the PCSC Act:

The bill is basically a rehash of some of the worse amendments to the PCSC act that were chucked out in the Lords.

Read on...

New offences include locking on, going equipped to lock on, and obstructing national infrastructure. There are new stop and search powers, including a suspicionless power for protest-related offences. This will be used to harass anyone who looks like a protester. But it will particularly impact marginalised communities who already bear the brunt of an institutionally racist police force.

Suella Braverman, much like her predecessor, has been outspoken on stifling the right to protest. When discussing Just Stop Oil protesters, she said:

I will not bend to protestors attempting to hold the British public to ransom.

Preventing our emergency services from reaching those who desperately need them is indefensible, hideously selfish and in no way in the public interest.

This serious and dangerous disruption, let alone the vandalism, is not a freedom of expression, nor a human right. It must stop.

Braverman’s comments further normalise the creeping insistence that protests must not be disruptive. But by their very definition, protests are supposed to be disruptive. Such protests attract people’s attention and amplify the message that it is not acceptable to carry on with business as usual.

Dissent

Of course, many organisations have spoken out against the government’s plans – just like they had to under Patel’s tenure. The legal and policy officer at Big Brother Watch, Mark Johnson, said:

When Truss’s new Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, stood up to address the Conservative Party Conference on Tuesday, her speech had all the hardline hallmarks of her predecessor, Priti Patel, and the previous government as a whole.

Johnson warned that if the Public Order Bill becomes law, it would be a serious threat to everybody’s right to protest and freedom of speech:

The idea that any free and innocent British citizen should be stripped of their right to protest is chilling. Protest banning orders may sound like the wild fantasies of despots, seeking to put away political dissidents, but in just a few short months they could become UK law.

When discussing the details of the Public Order Bill, human rights organisation Liberty said:

These proposals risk criminalising anyone who takes to the streets for a cause they believe in, from racial justice campaigners to grieving families looking for answers and justice.

It’s another part of the Government’s plan to hide from accountability for its actions and make itself untouchable.

Moreover, the bill isn’t only unpopular with human rights organisations – even some emergency services are hesitant to support it. The charity JUSTICE came out in opposition, saying:

the Bill would serve to give the police carte blanche to target protesters – similar laws can be found in Russia and Belarus. It is therefore unsurprising that equivalent measures to the Protest Banning Orders were previously roundly rejected by the police, Home Office and Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services on the basis that such measures “would neither be compatible with human rights legislation nor create an effective deterrent.”

A right worth fighting for

Clearly, Braverman is seamlessly continuing the draconian work of Patel. Her department is trying to enact legislation that is repressive and stifling. Just like the PCSC Act brought out protesters across the country, we need to do that again in order to stop the Public Order Bill. Braverman’s framing of protesters as petty vandals is a line in the sand – she’s letting us know that she does not hold the right to protest as a right worth protecting.

Disruption and dissent are central to a functioning democratic society, no matter what Braverman says. The Network for Police Monitoring (Netpol) has written an explainer on how to defend dissent. They mention the importance of knowing your rights, ‘resisting police surveillance’, and ‘challenging the use of police powers’.

As the climate crisis and cost of living crisis worsens, and as politicians engineer an economic crisis, protest is going to be an essential tool in protecting people in our communities. We must resist any attempts to erode the right to protest and dissent. It’s a right that we’re clearly going to need in the coming months.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/David Woolfall via CC 3.0 and Wikimedia Commons/UK Department for International Development via CC 2.0 – resized to fit within 770×403 and background removed

Get involved

  • Support the work of Big Brother Watch
  • Read Liberty’s explainer here of what to do about the Public Order Bill
  • Read Netpol’s dissent explainer here

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  • Show Comments
    1. Why is it that the offspring of immigrants (with bundles of cash) are the most vociferous of children of unmarried parentage when I comes to immigration? Why is it that they want to impose Draconian measures on those of us who were actually born here?

    2. Suella Braverman is set to carry on the draconian work of Priti Patel.
      The new Tory Govt are failing our Brexit wisher voter NO-ifs NO-buts.

      WELL BREXIT voter this article is nothing new Tory had a Minister Petal
      That could not do her job right and infore full broader lock down to U.K
      To stop refugees + Immigrants coming to U.K. she had 12+year did p*** all

      Now we have another useless Tory Minister taking over from Petal saying she will just carry on with Petal plans that are proven to be rubbish and are NOT working
      So, Tell us Brexit voters Tory new Minister Suella Braverman what is the point of us taxpayer paying you a wage to do nothing just sit in a Office playing with your paper work while boat people still coming anf you paying the French to do P***all?

      Cannot wait for next G.E. then the public will put a stop to this cancer of Tory failing and dodgy going on within the party that are trashing Brexit plus our country for Minister personal gain within the party ladder to P.M. job.

      1. What is it you have against people moving to the UK for a better life, working and paying taxes? It seems that for you, even a far-right Tory government is not enough. And readers who think that a Labour government would be less harsh ought to look at the party’s statements and history. Labour is keen to win over right-wing, politically interested voters such as royjenkins284 and will happily trash migrants and the working class to do so.

        1. Just to educate this cat person here
          I am a free voter no ties to any Govt party in power or not
          I also pay NO party any fees to vote
          I aided in removing Labour from power.
          I aided in getting shut of David Cameron.
          I aided in a Hung Govt under Ms May .
          I aided in removing lying Boris .
          I am now aiding in removing Tory party next G.E.
          Tell us what you have achieved in life -and do you hold your party
          to acount for failing us U.K. voters –yes or no ?
          Or just sit on your backside doing sod – all to help our country

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