Campaigners took to the streets this evening to demand that new police powers to clamp down on protests are thrown out.
The police response to the Sarah Everard vigil in London has thrown more of a spotlight on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
This is being debated by MPs this week. It would give police the power to impose conditions on non-violent protests judged to be too noisy and thereby causing “intimidation or harassment” or “serious unease, alarm or distress” to the public.
Time and noise limits could be imposed on protests. And the law could be enacted on a single demonstrator.
The protest in St Helen’s Square was organised by Kill The Bill York.
One protester told YorkMix: “The right to peacefully protest is a fundamental human right and essential to maintaining our democracy and holding our government to account.
“The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill proposes sweeping new powers that pose a threat to any protest group who take to the street and stand up for their rights.”
‘Respect our rights’
“This evening citizens of York came together to stand up for our democracy in an incredible show of community and care,” the protester said.
“There was no police presence apart from a couple of vans which circled us, allowing us to hold this demonstration safely and peacefully.
“This could’ve been the case at vigils held across the country if the government and police had chosen to respect our rights.
“The police abuse the powers they already have, as many marginalised communities and activist groups are all too aware of, and yet the government wants to give them more powers to prevent peaceful protest.
“The subjective powers of this bill would allow the police and government to pick and choose which protests they deem legitimate and which issues they wish to shut down – posing a threat to all who aim to hold the government accountable.
“As this government continues to attempt to introduce increasingly draconian laws it is up to all of us to stand up for our rights and demand justice.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel said the new Bill “will give police the powers to take a more proactive approach in tackling dangerous and disruptive protest”.
But Labour is opposing the legislation. Shadow home secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said placing restrictions on the right to protest would “do great damage to our democracy”.