Activism

Policing bill delay 'shows that protest works’

Opposition MPs claimed the controversial policing bill, which could restrict the public's right to protest, has been pushed back

The policing bill could see protests shut down if deemed too disruptive

The bill could let police shut down protests if deemed too disruptive. Eckart Schaper/Flickr

The Government’s policing bill branded “draconian” by critics has been delayed after a week of protests in Parliament Square and outside Scotland Yard.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passed a Commons vote at its second reading on Tuesday. Labour MP Peter Kyle, who was appointed to the committee which will examine and propose amendments to the bill, said he had been told the committee stage would start as early as next week.

But it is now not expected back in Parliament until June 24, following a series of demonstrations led by feminist activists Sisters Uncut. Kyle’s fellow Labour MPs Zarah Sultana and Ian Lavery also said the bill had been delayed. An official reason has yet to be made public. The Ministry of Justice has been approached for comment.

“The last week has shown that protest works. That’s why they want to ban it, and that’s why we’re fighting back,” a Sisters Uncut spokesperson said.

“The coalition that is coming together shows just how many people are angry about the brutal reality of policing in this country, and who are determined to roll back this dangerous extension of state power. 

“Policing by consent is a story this country likes to tell about itself. The reality is that policing is unaccountable, aggressive and violent. Targets of police repression – working class people, racial minorities, sex workers and many others – have had enough.”

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The bill could hand both police and Home Secretary Priti Patel the power to shut down protests for being too disruptive or causing too much noise, and restricts protests around Parliament.

It would also allow police to impose conditions on protests, such as start and finish times, and arrest people who breach these conditions.

Campaigners including Sisters Uncut were moved to demonstrate against the bill after heavy-handed policing – with officers citing Covid-19 restrictions – saw women handcuffed and removed from a Clapham Common vigil for 33-year-old marketing executive Sarah Everard, who disappeared on March 3. A serving Metropolitan Police officer has been charged with her kidnap and murder.

“Saturday night has shown us that the police are drunk on power, and should not be rewarded with more.”

Experts warned the police action seen at Clapham Common would be allowed under the new law even when the pandemic threat has passed.

“When they saw the revulsion from vast swathes of the country at this unfit bill, suddenly we get a message saying ‘the bill committee won’t start until later in the year’,” said Peter Kyle, Labour MP for Hove. Kyle was appointed to the committee which will examine and propose amendments for the bill.

“No doubt when it reappears it will look very different than it does today, and for that we have people up and down the country to thank who contacted their MPs, who made their voices heard, and also a united opposition that pulled apart the shallow and mean spirited arguments put forward by government.”

Amendments to the bill can be proposed at committee stage. It will then come back to Parliament for a third reading and final vote before moving to the House of Lords.

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