Activism

Kill the Bill activists vow to make new police powers ‘unenforceable'

Campaigners will gather on July 7 in objection to the bill's new trespass laws, following a string of Kill the Bill protests across the country

Around 200 Kill the Bill activists are staging a rally in Parliament Square to oppose the policing bill after MPs backed it in the House of Commons earlier this week.

Campaigners said the “racist” bill poses the “single biggest threat” to Traveller communities’ way of life.

Drive2Survive, a coalition of Romany Gypsy and Irish Traveller activists formed this year to fight the policing bill, is leading the event this July 7, between 1pm and 3pm.

Section four of the new legislation will make “residing or intending to reside on land without the permission of the owner or occupier” a criminal offence, meaning Gypsy, Roma and Traveller families could be handed fines of up to £2,500, criminal records and have their vehicles seized. It’s just one element of the legislation which has inspired a number of Kill the Bill protests up and down the country since March.

The policing bill is “the single biggest threat to the traditional way of life of Romany Gypsies and Irish Travellers in our lifetime”, according to Drive2Survive.

“If we join together we can make Priti Patel and Boris Johnson think again about their intention to eradicate a way of life that is many hundreds of years old.”

It is common for travelling communities to pitch up on land without the explicit permission of the owner, but it is currently a civil rather than criminal offence, and many have little choice while there is a dearth of authorised sites for them to stay on. Research by charity Friends, Families and Travellers, published in January, showed nearly 1,700 households were on waiting lists for 59 permanent pitch sites.

Drive2Survive is joined by several grassroots and mainstream campaign groups including Friends of the Earth, environmentalists 350.org and Sisters Uncut to stand against the threat to travelling communities and to Brits’ right to protest. 

The legislation will give police the powers to shut down protests if they are too noisy or disruptive. More Kill the Bill demonstrations are expected as the bill makes its way to the House of Lords for further amendments.

“We always knew beating this bill was going to take place on the streets and in our neighbourhoods, not through the halls of power,” a Sisters Uncut spokesperson told The Big Issue.

“Passed by the Commons or not, we refuse to accept the bill and its racist attack on our communities especially the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller community, whose very way of life is criminalised by this bill’s widely-slammed trespass provisions.”

“We all stand together and say we don’t allow them to fine and take away our Gypsy Roma and Traveller siblings’ homes; we don’t allow them to stop us on the street just for looking suspicious without any recourse; we don’t allow them to decide that we have no freedom to assemble or to put our children under surveillance. We will make any new powers they plan to unroll unenforceable on these streets.”

The Kill the Bill movement has galvanised a wide range of activists in recent months, with campaigners from many causes coming together to stage protests and demonstrations.

Taking stock of how the movement has developed, the Sisters Uncut spokesperson said: “It’s totally drawn us together in urgency, because Priti’s bill attacks all of us.

“It’s unsurprising that there’s been huge solidarity, comradeship and co-conspiring as a result of these attacks on our communities. This is just one piece of the puzzle as well, with the Immigration Bill incoming, SIM [Serenity Integrated Mentoring, a system which enables emergency services to turn away vulnerable mental health patients] being implemented in the NHS, the SpyCops bill already passed.

“We will rise up together against this onslaught because we have to.”

MPs voting in favour of the policing bill was “not really a surprise”, the spokesperson said. “Of course we were hoping to see Tory MPs develop a socially-conscious spine, but we weren’t banking on it.

“They’ve already played themselves regardless. By attacking all of us together we have needed to unite in grassroots community solidarity.”

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