A large and diverse group of demonstrators marched in York today (Saturday) to protest against a police and crime bill that they described as draconian.
It was one of 25 similar demonstrations held across the country against the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
This would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests – including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance – with those convicted liable to fines or jail terms.
Before the rally in Parliament Street began, police approached the organisers to tell them their presence would be very low-key. A group of officers watched proceedings from close to St Sampson’s Square.
Organisers said they had asked all attendees to wear masks and observe social distancing.
Lots of people lined up to describe how the new bill would restrict people’s rights.
One speaker said they worked with sex workers: “We work with cis women and we work with trans women. And we’re not going to be able to work any more if we get hit with this sort of thing.
“All they want to do is take more power, restrict the people – reduce the ability for us to organise, and if you can’t organise, then how do we change anything?”
‘Protest is our right’
Other speakers spoke of the impact on travelling communities, and on foreign nationals who could be deported after only a caution.
One woman condemned the recent report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities. It concluded that there was no institutionalised racism in Britain – which she said was ‘bullshit’.
“This report is horrific – it’s gaslighting minority communities, and we cannot stand for it.
“They tell us it doesn’t exist – and they say that we can’t go out on the streets and protest and tell them that it does exist.”
One woman said protests had been crucial to winning LGBT rights. “They think that giving police more powers is going to keep women safe.
“The same police that brutalised mourners with flowers at a vigil for a woman allegedly murdered by one of their own.”
York courier Cristian Santabarbara referred to the fining of a York busker by police last week.
He said of North Yorkshire Police: “Every day they fine us couriers, and lord it over us.”
The demonstrators then marched up Coney Street, and along Petergate, chanting ‘Protest is our right – Here to stay, here to fight’, and ‘Whose streets? Our streets’.