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Activism

Kill the Bill: Activists ‘to hold 40 rallies’ across the UK this weekend

“The police have repeatedly proven that they are drunk on power and will always use violence against us”

Thousands of “kill the bill” protestors will flock to UK cities this weekend to demand ministers drop the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. 

A coalition of organisations including Sisters Uncut and Black Lives Matter UK will hold more than 40 events across the UK on Saturday, May 1 in opposition to the “authoritarian” Bill which could smother freedom of speech and the right to protest.

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“It will take a mass movement to force it to be thrown out of parliament, and that movement is growing,” said an anonymous member of Sisters Uncut in a press release.

“If this police powers bill becomes law, we will see even more police violence – against people who speak up against injustice, and specifically against Black, Muslim and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.”

The proposed legislation, which includes new police powers to break up protests causing “serious annoyance”, was the subject of protests in March, most notably in Bristol where several people were arrested following violent scenes.

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Protests against the legislation’s passage also took place in central London on April 17. 

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Now, a “coalition” of groups will stage more rallies against the bill, which is set to continue its progress through parliament in May. 

Sisters Uncut, the feminist group helping lead the action, said in a press release the bill was “authoritarian” and should be scrapped entirely. 

Measures in the 300-page Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill include allowing police to shut down peaceful protests if they are disruptive and impose start and finish times on protests. 

Protesting around parliament could also become more restricted and experts have warned that the bill is likely to affect minorities the most. 

The bill would also mean those who damage memorials such as statues face up to 10 years in prison. 

Organisers said 40 different protests will take place across the UK on Saturday May 1 including Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Bristol, Cambridge, Sheffield and Edinburgh.

The “coalition” has released a map with the full list of protests this weekend. 

According to Liberty, the human rights organisation, the law in England states coronavirus regulations prohibit outdoor gatherings of six people or more in public. 

However, the group says you are allowed to gather in a public outdoor space as long as the gathering: 

  • Has been organised by a business, a charity, a benevolent or philanthropic institution, a public body, or a political body
  • The organiser of the protest has carried out a risk assessment which meets the requirements of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and
  • The organiser has taken all reasonable steps to limit the risk of transmission of coronavirus, in line with the risk assessment

If protestors attend a protest with more than six people where the organiser has not carried out the required risk assessment, Liberty adds they may be at risk of arrest.

Dani Cane, a youth worker who plans to attend the protest on Saturday said: “The police have repeatedly proven that they are drunk on power, and will always use violence against us, not just against the most vulnerable people they routinely target, but anyone who they deem to be not behaving in a way they approve of. 

“It is vital that we prevent this bill from being passed in order to keep ourselves safe and resist the authoritarian abuse of state power. We must be able to hold the police accountable for the violence they relentlessly cause.”

Jess Sharp, a domestic violence worker who plans to attend the protest on Saturday added: “It has felt like every single day since Sarah Everard was murdered, more stories of horrific police violence have come out.

“The police are bullies and perpetuate endless violence, giving them more power puts us at more risk and so we cannot allow this bill to pass.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The right to protest is a cornerstone of our democracy and the Government is absolutely committed to maintaining freedom of expression.

“But protesters who use disruptive and dangerous tactics – whether glueing themselves to train carriages or blocking traffic, including emergency vehicles – cannot be permitted to trample on the rights of local businesses and communities.

“These new measures will not stop people from carrying out their civic right to protest and be heard, but prevent misery to the public and the loss of millions of pounds to the taxpayer and businesses at the same time.”

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