The right to protest, like the right to free speech, is coming under savage attack by the Tory government.
The government’s 296-page policing bill would make it illegal to cause “serious annoyance” – with punishment of up to 10 years’ jail. Worse than that, the law is to be applied even if “somebody is put at risk” of such so-called “serious harm” – ie, when no action has actually taken place!
The bill would make it an offence if just one person complains about feeling “serious distress…annoyance…[or even] inconvenience”.
This law could open the floodgates to vexatious complaints similar to what happened with the antisemitism smear campaign in the Labour Party – somebody could for example report “feeling at risk” by a criticism or a protest, which could result in police action and a prison sentence.
We are more than ‘seriously annoyed’ by the bill – and because of the brutal enforcement of Covid restrictions by the police, we are not even allowed to protest against the plans (at least until March 29, when the ban on public demonstrations will be lifted – watch this space!)
The ruthless policing of the women’s protests at Camden, and the detainment of pro-Palestine protesters in Wolverhampton who were on their way to a protest, show that the government is already massively tightening the screws.
The right to free speech and to protest are the fundamental cornerstones of any democratic society. If we cannot protest, we are robbed of the most basic and elementary method of holding government to account.