Posts Tagged ‘police powers’

May Day #KillTheBill

Saturday, May 1st, 2021

May Day 2000

Unfortunately May Day is not a public holiday in the UK, and when I was in full time teaching it was usually just a normal working day for me and I was unable to celebrate it except in those years where it fell at a weekend. Even when I cut my teaching to 30% for a few years, that 30% seemed always to include May Day, and it was only from 2003 that I began to attend May Day in London every year – until 2020, when it went online.

This year, when May Day is on a Saturday, the official May Day celebrations are also taking place online, but May 1st is now a nationwide day of action against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 with which the government is attempting to severely limit the right to protest and in particular to criminalise “noisy” protests and prosecute people in the Gypsy and Roma communities. Noisy protests shaming businesses have been vital in recent years in gaining better wages and conditions for low paid workers particularly in the City of London.

The Bill will give the police much greater powers to place conditions on protest – and to make it a crime to break these conditions if they “ought to have known” they were in place but didn’t. They introduce a new offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance” which can lead to a sentence of up to ten years.

Police also gain greater powers to stop and search on the streets under a new Serious Violence Reduction Order, an arbitrary power that removes even the need for any suspicion and will doubtless lead to an even more racist implementation of stop and search, worse than the old ‘Sus’ law that led to the Brixton riots 40 years ago.

As a knee-jerk reaction to Black Lives Matter protests there is a new offence of causing damage to statues and memorials which could also lead to sentences of ten years, twice the maximum sentence for assault causing actual bodily harm.

The bill also seeks to create a wide “controlled area” around parliament where protests would not be allowed – and so MPs and ministers would no longer be made aware of any public opposition to their actions. Many see the bill as denying our right to freedom of assembly and association under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights .

A long list of organisations are coming to Trafalgar Square at noon today for a MayDay #KillTheBill protest (and to similar protests in Sheffield, Leeds and Manchester.) They include Sisters Uncut, Women’s Strike Assembly, Black Lives Matter UK, Disabled People Against Cuts, the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants and Docs not Cops. With the current large Tory majority in the House of Commons the bill is likely to pass with only minor amendments, and the fight will move to the streets where with strong opposition much of the new law will be unenforceable.

Seconds later an officer knocked this man offering plants flying

Pictures are from 21 years ago, May Day 2000. There are some black and white pictures from the same day on My London Diary.


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr

All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.


Schools Climate Strike

Monday, March 15th, 2021


A bill is currently being introduced into the UK parliament which will severely restrict our ability to protest, giving police new powers to control both static protests and marches. Many of us see it as a major attempt to limit democratic and human rights and a major step in our movement towards a police state. Even the police are worried about some aspects of it. I think there are some aspects which the House of Lords may seek to alter or remove, but given the large Tory majority it seems likely to be passed more or less intact.

The proposals by Home Secretary Priti Patel are widely seen as a knee-jerk right-wing reaction to protests by Extinction Rebellion and the Black Lives Matter movement, and come at a time when Covid restrictions are being widely used by police to prevent protests, even where these seem to present little danger of spreading the virus.

XR promoted a policy of encouraging its supporters to be arrested, and were widely criticised on the left for doing so. In its earlier protests, relatively few of those arrested came to trial and many charges were found to be unlawful – as was the London-wide ban on protests the police later enforced. In later XR protests the Home Office clearly put pressure on police and CPS to ensure that charges were brought and the new bill reflects that much tougher attitude.

We already have a criminal justice system that is failing under extreme pressures, and was even before the extra constraints of Covid. Police are failing to pursue many types of crime and the chances of criminals being caught – always the most effective deterrent – are rapidly falling. In the 12 months up to March 2019, only 7.8% of reported offences in England and Wales led to someone being charged or summonsed – roughly on in every 13 – and unless a crime number is needed for insurance many now think it isn’t worth reporting most crimes. It’s a figure that halved since records were first published only four years previously.

I doubt if this bill will actually have the intended effect of reducing protests, but it will increase the number of arrests and further clog up the justice system – probably leading to the introduction of yet more draconian measures including the loss of civil rights.

Quite how the Old Bill will react in future at protests like the London Schools Climate Strike on Friday 15th March 2019 is a matter for conjecture. If the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill comes into law will they be prepared to undertake mass arrests of minors who refuse to accept direction? Clearly the police (and military) revelled in the freedom and encouragement from Thatcher to wade into the miners, but I hope they will still have sufficient human decency to draw the line when Patel’s orders come to attack children.

Of course what we really need is not to attack climate protesters but to take urgent actions to avoid climate disaster – as the several thousand school students who took part in the Big School Strike for the Future were demanding.

More about the protest at London Schools Climate Strike


All photographs on this and my other sites, unless otherwise stated, are taken by and copyright of Peter Marshall, and are available for reproduction or can be bought as prints.

My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage : Flickr