By Zong Li
THE IMPENDING Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will poison our political system if it eventually passes.
There are four main parts to the legislation – it means that the police can charge static protests with more conditions, the same amount as processions now. There will be more circumstances where the police can charge both types of protests with conditions; public nuisance will be a statutory offence; and finally, there may be new stop, search and seizure powers.
In addition, the Home Office added legislation that forces all public assemblies essentially to be booked in with the police: organisers must inform the police with written notice before such assemblies. This echoes Barbara Castle’s ‘White Paper’, which was a complete disaster.
Trade Unions did not comply, because legislation which demands ‘pre-registering’ a protest or strike diminishes the power of that protest or strike.
Similarly, the new Bill gives police and Government ministers the power to ban or limit peaceful protests by virtue of their possibly being noisy or annoying, a motion that dilutes the efficacy of any protest.
It is clear that the new Bill will impact human liberty for the worse.
Democracy is and has always been a system where the people have had a method to decide legislation – direct democracy – or have selected governing officials to do this – representative democracy. This can be seen from the etymology of the word. It literally means ‘people rule’, from the Greek demokratia.
In order for a system to truly call itself democracy, the people must have a way to impact said system. Protests and strikes have become one of the only ways for the people to actively control their own political system, since votes and referendums are directly controlled by the government, as well as the choices. The right to protest is a fundamental tenet of democracy and has been key to the securing of many rights. For example, women’s rights were effectively won over completely by protests.
The Suffragettes were infamous for attention-grabbing action, and frequently broke the law to raise awareness.
For example, in May 1914, Emmeline Pankhurst and her group marched to Buckingham Palace to see the king, where she was arrested. Four years later, women were granted the vote.
More recently, the fracking industry, which threatened to industrialise the British countryside and would have caused earthquakes as seen by a 2.9 magnitude earthquake near the Uk’s former fracking site was partly prevented through protest.
Modifications must be made to avoid this threat to free assembly and the principle of democracy.
This is the first segment of a two-part series by the writer on the ‘Protest Bill’.
Zong Li is a freelance writer.
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