Government plans to restrict right to protest
Quakers in Britain are among more than 150 charities, unions and faith bodies objecting to a Bill being rushed through parliament which will hand police draconian powers to decide where, when and how citizens are allowed to protest.
In a letter to the Home Secretary and the Secretary of State for Justice they say, "This is a huge Bill, both in length and in potential consequences - for young people calling for social change facing greater criminalisation by the state, for Gypsy and Traveller communities facing threats to their way of life, and for anyone who values freedom of expression and the right to make yourself heard against the powerful."
The full text of the letter:
Dear Home Secretary and Secretary of State for Justice,
“We write to share our profound concern and alarm over the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill published last week. Not only does this Bill contain numerous threats to the right to peaceful protest and access to the countryside, criminalise Gypsy and Traveller communities' way of life, as well as a whole host of expansive policing powers, but it is being rushed through parliament during a pandemic and before civil society and the public have been able to fully understand its profound implications.
“Contained within this 307̵ page Bill are plans to:
- Introduce draconian new police powers to decide where, when and how citizens are allowed to protest and have their voices heard by those in power;
- Increase penalties for those breaching police conditions on protests and the ease with which they can be found to have done so;
- Create a new trespass offence that criminalises the way of life of nomadic Gypsy and Traveller communities, while the government manifestly fails to provide adequate sites and permitted stopping places, and has implications for the public's right to protest, access to the countryside and people experiencing homelessness.
“This is a huge Bill, both in length and in potential consequences - for young people calling for social change facing greater criminalisation by the state, for Gypsy and Traveller communities facing threats to their way of life, and for anyone who values freedom of expression and the right to make yourself heard against the powerful.
“This in itself is enough to cause alarm, but the government is also trying to rush this Bill through parliament, with less than a week between publication and second reading. This is deeply inadequate and provides no time for MPs and their staff, let alone the communities it stands to affect so profoundly, to understand what the consequences of this wide-ranging Bill may be.
“For a country that so often prides itself on civil liberties, this Bill represents an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens, in particular those from marginalised communities, and is being driven through at a time and in a way where those who will be subject to its provisions are least able to respond.
“We urge the government to fundamentally rethink its approach."
And 150 signatories including Paul Parker, Recording Clerk, Quakers in Britain
- UPDATE: On 16 March the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passed Second Reading. The votes were yes, 359 and noes 263. Quakers will be engaging with their MPs over this Bill.