MPs are preparing to vote next week on some of the most controversial anti-protest measures left in the government’s notorious policing bill.
Amnesty UK has urged MPs to “follow the lead of their colleagues in the Lords in taking a stand against the power-grab” when the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill returns to the Commons on Monday.
Last month, the House of Lords rejected a string of proposals that would have given police in England and Wales increased powers, including the power to stop and search anyone at a protest “without suspicion”.
Karla McLaren, Amnesty UK’s government and political relations manager, told openDemocracy: “The right to protest is a cherished part of the fabric of our society and it’s profoundly disturbing that the government is trying to gag people like this.
Jun Pang – Policy and Campaigns Officer on 02 Dec 2021 at Liberty
Not content with the already draconian powers in the [Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts] Bill to shut down protests and criminalise people trying to make their voices heard, the Government has recently added amendments to it.
1. LOCKING ON
Locking on only needs to be “capable” of causing serious disruption to “two or more people”. On top of that, no one knows what “serious disruption” means because it’s not defined in the Bill. Instead, the Home Secretary will get to define and re-define it at will.
2. WILFUL OBSTRUCTION OF THE HIGHWAY
The current punishment for someone who wilfully obstructs the highway is a fine. Amendments to the Policing Bill will change it to up to 51 weeks in prison, a fine, or both.
Such heavy punishments will stop people taking to the streets to stand up to power – and will add to existing pressures on courts, prisons, and the probation service.
3. OBSTRUCTION OF MAJOR TRANSPORT WORKS
This is another new offence that a person commits if they obstruct someone from taking any steps connected to the construction or maintenance of any major transport works, or they in any way interfere with “any apparatus” relating to that construction or maintenance.
4. STOP AND SEARCH
The Government’s amendments will also expand stop and search. Police will be able to stop and search a person or vehicle for items intended for use in connection with the offences in the Bill: obstructing the highway, public nuisance, locking on, and obstructing major transport works.
Police will also be able to put orders in place allowing for ‘suspicion-less’ stop and search for these items in a specific location for up to 24 hours (and up to 48 hours, if authorised).
5. SERIOUS DISRUPTION PREVENTION ORDERS – PROTEST BANNING ORDERS
People given a protest banning order will be subject to a set of conditions, including not associating with certain people, going to certain places, carrying certain items, or using the internet in a certain way.
They can last for up to two years, but there is no limit to the number of times a protest banning order can be renewed by the court.
Protest is a fundamental right, but protest banning orders effectively ban people from organising and making their voices heard, striking at the heart of what makes protest meaningful and effective: political community.
These new offences will either deter people from protesting, or drag them into the criminal justice system for doing so. They will further entrench discrimination, with devastating consequences for marginalised communities.
But they are’t law yet, and this Government buckles under public pressure and u-turns time and again.
We’ve also created this quick and easy tool to email your MP and tell them to stop this dangerous and discriminatory Bill from becoming law.
UK Murdoch Home Secretary Priti Patel appears in recent news items.
Consider the following example, because it’s about to come true. Someone has been a British citizen for decades. They go on holiday. When they try to return, they’re told that the Home Secretary has stripped them of their citizenship. They are not told why. They are not told the charges against them. They have no functioning right of appeal. They have been made stateless, by ministerial fiat.
This would be the consequence of a new provision added to Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders bill, which goes through the Commons over the next couple of days.
Making someone stateless has long been seen as one of the most egregious actions a government can take. In the words of Hannah Arendt, the great scholar of totalitarianism, it deprives people of “the right to have rights”. It makes you an unperson: without protection, without home, without legal status.
This is proper police state stuff. The last-minute amendments crowbarred by the government into the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill are a blatant attempt to stifle protest, of the kind you might expect in Russia or Egypt. Priti Patel, the home secretary, shoved 18 extra pages into the bill after it had passed through the Commons, and after the second reading in the House of Lords. It looks like a deliberate ploy to avoid effective parliamentary scrutiny. Yet in most of the media there’s a resounding silence.
Among the new amendments are measures that would ban protesters from attaching themselves to another person, to an object, or to land. Not only would they make locking on – a crucial tool of protest the world over – illegal, but they are so loosely drafted that they could apply to anyone holding on to anything, on pain of up to 51 weeks’ imprisonment.
It would also become a criminal offence to obstruct in any way major transport works from being carried out, again with a maximum sentence of 51 weeks. This looks like an attempt to end meaningful protest against road-building and airport expansion. Other amendments would greatly expand police stop and search powers. The police would be entitled to stop and search people or vehicles if they suspect they might be carrying any article that could be used in the newly prohibited protests, presumably including placards, flyers and banners. Other new powers would grant police the right to stop and search people without suspicion, if they believe that protest will occur “in that area”. Anyone who resists being searched could be imprisoned for – you guessed it – up to 51 weeks.
Recently, the Guardian broke the news that the reason we are seeing increasing numbers of asylum seekers on our beaches is because they have cottoned on to the fact that, thanks to Brexit, we are no longer part of the Dublin Agreement. This inconvenient truth seems to have escaped Farage and Johnson and all those who are hell bent on ruining the country’s economy at any cost if we can only get control of our borders.
Since 2016, the Tory party has rapidly morphed into the BNP-NF-Brexit Party-UKIP-Tory party but how far has it gone?
Put it this way. Now it’s suppressing its own reports on the reasons people make the treacherous journey across the channel. Home Office data show two thirds of those attempting to make the crossing are genuine refugees, many coming from war-torn parts of the world. As one of the world’s largest exporters of arms, the UK has had a great deal to do with creating the hell that they are escaping.
But the Home Office is not publishing this data. Why? Because it doesn’t fit the narrative. These are inconvenient truths that the Tories don’t want people to hear. So best they just make out that the asylum seekers are illegal immigrants coming over here to scrounge benefits and get a nice hotel on the back of the taxpayer.