MPs and campaigners demand the home secretary stops police clamping down on protests

Kill the Bill rally
Sophia Purdy-Moore

Campaigners, MPs, and peers have written to home secretary Priti Patel. They’re calling for changes to coronavirus (Covid-19) legislation to allow for protests to take place during lockdown.

Protecting the right to protest

The letter was organised by Liberty and Big Brother Watch. It calls on the home secretary to provide guidance for police on how to facilitate protests during the pandemic. And it also asks for clarity around laws on the right to protest. The letter emphasises that protest is a human right.

This comes ahead of further “Kill the Bill” protests to challenge the government’s draconian Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. The protests are due to take place nationwide on 20 and 21 March.

MPs from various parties have signed the letter. However, Network for Police Monitoring co-ordinator Kevin Blowe highlighted that the Tory MPs who signed the letter previously voted for the bill which proposes to “clamp down on protest“:

Banning protest

Earlier in March, campaigners tried to secure exemption from lockdown legislation to attend a vigil commemorating Sarah Everard. The judgement handed down suggested “that the human rights of expression and gathering might be considered reasonable excuses in some circumstances”. But police still proceeded to harass and arrest vigil attendees.

Big Brother Watch director Silkie Carlo said:

The harrowing scenes of police officers using force against women at Clapham Common recently were avoidable and wrong. Over the past week, many more demonstrators and even legal observers have been arrested or fined. This stain on our democracy is a direct consequence of this government’s disrespect for the most basic of British democratic freedoms.

Sam Grant from Liberty added:

Last week, the police conceded protest is not banned under the lockdown regulations, but used them to threaten then arrest demonstrators anyway. The home secretary must immediately issue guidance to all police forces to ensure socially distanced protests can go ahead and create an explicit exemption for protest in the current regulations. 

Doughty Street Chambers barrister Adam Wagner highlighted – as set out in the judicial review – that any police force with a blanket ban on all protest would be acting unlawfully:

Statements from the Metropolitan police, London mayor Sadiq Khan, and Wiltshire’s police constable are not in line with Holgate’s judgement:

Lack of clarity

The letter to the home secretary states:

The absence of clear guidance on these issues has created an entirely unsatisfactory situation, which has persisted to varying degrees for almost a year now. The police have no legal certainty as to their duties and powers, protestors have no legal certainty as to their rights, and there is inconsistent application of the Regulations across the country. This cannot continue.

Netpol suggested that the confusion created by “state-of-emergency laws and enforcement” is “a very effective way of making people fearful about exercising” their rights:

The Home Office responded to the joint letter, saying:

While we are still in a pandemic we continue to urge people to avoid mass gatherings, in line with wider coronavirus restrictions.

The Home Office also confirmed that stay at home regulations will remain in place until 29 March.

Featured image via Double Down News/YouTube

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  • Show Comments
    1. Clamp down on Protest is the goal as politicians go crazy, incompetent to rule a country in modern times.
      Blame the populace for their woes. More draconian measures to show the poor inarticlate masses what social order is. Suppress those with a voice. So boring, I’ve read about it for over one thousand years yet “they” think its news. This abysmal forever war, inequality philosophy began to be fought against and put in place a common sense approach to Government doing away with violence ignorance about 1200 years ago.
      These original leaders so long ago were basically illerate, and derived their wealth through plunder/pillage of the innocent and using weapons galore.
      They robbed those who created wealth.
      In light of the failure of this class of people the “concept” of the monarchy began by treating people decently to bring about prosperity to the Commons which enriched the country as a whole along with the Monarchy beginning about 900AD.
      The Monarchy is long gone in this respect as a champion of good sense for the populace/realm, and politically
      these Tories have reverted to the “Uncivilized Philosophy” of the Middle ages for intellectual guidence.
      No learning curve for over 1200 years and still going strong!
      What a biology lesson.
      Until death do us part has no meaning here by abiding with their wishes as their philosophy precludes those who are living today.
      Death has meant nothing.
      But now you see it with their attitude to Covid.
      Its truly a Political Wierdo Land out there.
      Unhealthy for kids the anarchy they desire.

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