Kill the Bill! Human rights are far too important to ignore! We don’t agree with the Government!
Nottingham’s Forest Recreation Ground echoed these chants on Saturday as the public held a mass demonstration in protest of the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill.
This peaceful protest is the latest in a series of demonstrations that have been taking place across the UK in a movement to #KillTheBill and make sure the legislation is not passed in Government.
However, not all protests have been peaceful; in Bristol the #KillTheBill protest that intended to be a peaceful, socially distanced demonstration turned violent after small minority of those protesting released fireworks at police officers.
Bristol was an anomaly in a series of #KillTheBill protests that were held across the Uk including mass gatherings in Brighton, Manchester, Liverpool and London which went ahead relatively calmly with minimal arrest of conflict.
So, what are we protesting exactly and what are the consequences if the legislation is passed in Parliament?
The Bill Explained
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill is a proposed legislation by the Ministry of Justice that makes provisions for a range of issues which include introducing harsher penalties for serious crimes, and ends a policy of early prison release for some offenders, as well as preventing unauthorised encampments, among other sweeping measures.
The Bill will also allow law enforcement a more proactive approach to intervene in highly disruptive protests granting broader powers to the police forces when it comes to handling protests.
Effectively this new legislation will allow the Home Secretary, Priti Patel to create laws to define ‘serious disruption’ and will leave the police force to potentially criminalise protests that they deem a ‘public nuisance’ leaving much of the authority to their own discretion.
For example, the authorities will be allowed to set time and noise limits on demonstrations and those who do not follow these rules that they ‘ought’ to know about even though they may have not been forewarned by an officer will be liable to face prosecution.
Additionally, the bill will also allow the authorities to sentence individuals who destroy statues and memorials for up to 10 years, a legislation that was put in place as a result of the several statues and memorials of prominent slave traders being dismantled and defaced during the #BlackLivesMatter protests.
Those who protest this bill are arguing that this new legislation is effectively creating a police state and are concerned that the publics freedom of speech and the freedom to demonstrate are being challenged.
Protestors have taken to the streets of Bristol for a third night on Friday, with a minority of those protestors turning to violence and the police arresting a further 10 people after ending the night in scuffles.
The BBC reported that during the protests several journalists and reporters were assaulted by the police despite posing no threat to the public or the authorities.
Daily Mirror reporter Mathew Dresch tweeted that he was assaulted even after explaining to the police that he was a member of the media, in response the forces have announced that they have been trying to get in touch with the reporter and claiming that “the free press was a cornerstone of democracy.”
Police assaulted me at the Bristol protest even though I told them I was from the press. I was respectfully observing what was happening and posed no threat to any of the officers. I have muted the latter part of the video to spare you all the pain of hearing my shrill voice. pic.twitter.com/a7a0Nnw0bG
— Matthew Dresch (@MatthewDresch) March 27, 2021
On the other hand, the police force was faced with angry mobs of protestors who challenged the authorities by throwing bricks, bottles and fireworks, one officer explaining that “nothing can prepare you for the sort of violence they are expected to face.”
Ms Patel criticised the violence and disorder that was taking place in Bristol in tweet on Saturday.
I am disgusted by the disorder in Bristol and the violence being directed towards the police.
I’m in no doubt the silent, law-abiding majority will be appalled by the actions of this criminal minority.
— Priti Patel (@pritipatel) March 27, 2021
Prime Minister Boris Johnson too expressed his disdain with the chaos in the coastal town in a tweet on Saturday explaining that he stands in support of the police forces and their efforts to maintain order.
Last night saw disgraceful attacks against police officers in Bristol.
Our officers should not have to face having bricks, bottles and fireworks being thrown at them by a mob intent on violence and causing damage to property.
The police and the city have my full support.
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) March 27, 2021
Curtis Ryan, a Master’s politics student expressed his views on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill commenting that this new legislation abuses the use of the Public Service Mandate.
“Instead of protecting and serving the people the Bill ultimately does more to produce the opposite. However, I feel like the Bill is needed in this day and age but certain parameters of it do deny some elements of human rights.”
The Sarah Everard Case
The spark for this outrage from the public against the Bill was a result of the Metropolitan Police breaking up an event on 12 March in relation to the murder of Sarah Everard.
Officers were widely criticised for using excessive force against individuals attending the vigil as the event was deemed illegal as it broke lockdown protocol and coronavirus restrictions.
Critically the authorities heavy-handed response to the vigil spawned the movement against the bill, shifting the debate to one more concerned with police overreach; the bill makes no specific mention of violence against women, rather, it says more about defacing memorials and statues than it does about crimes motivated by misogyny.
However, since that grave day, almost every #KillTheBill protest has paid their respects to Sarah Everard and the heinous misogynistic crime in the form of a minute’s silence.
Those opposing the new legislation in Parliament had originally planned to abstain from voting on the Bill, but shifted later to a position to vote against it.
Labour lawmaker, David Lammy, is the opposition party’s spokesman. When appearing for the The New York Times , he called the legislation a “mess.”
“The tragic death of Sarah Everard has instigated a national demand for action to tackle violence against women,” Mr. Lammy said. “This is no time to be rushing through poorly thought-out measures to impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest.”