The recent National Education Union conference passed this emergency motion on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. It was submitted by Bristol NEU. For a report of police violence against anti-Police Bill protesters in Bristol, and a statement from Bristol trades council, see here. For a politically weaker statement from South West region unions, also signed by Bristol trades council, see here.
Defend the Right to Protest – Oppose the new Police Bill
1. the Government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill attempts to limit the right to protest in the wake of Covid pandemic.
2. following more than a decade of austerity we will be asked to pay the price for the Covid-19 crisis. Working class communities, women, Black communities, and disabled people have suffered disproportionately
3. the new Policing Bill gives police new powers to stop protests that cause “serious disruption” to an organisation or have a “relevant impact” on people nearby
4. a further clause in the Bill criminalises protests causing “serious annoyance” – every employer and reactionary could use this claim to curb protest.
Conference further notes:
i. the attempt by police to break up a vigil in memory of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common
ii. attacks by Police in Bristol and elsewhere against peaceful
protests against the Bill
iii. the Bill increases stop and search powers that will be used to scapegoat minorities and increase racism
iv. the Bill includes a new trespass offense [sic] that will be used to target Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) groups
v. clauses against “unauthorised encampments” will be used against GRT communities potentially seizing homes, putting parents in prison and children into care. It could also hit homeless people constructing makeshift shelters and protesters
vi. progress on disabled people's rights has, in large part, depended on peaceful direct action.
the Police Bill is an assault on our right to assembly and protest aiming to make it as ineffective as possible
the Bill is a threat to trade union activity, restricting our right to protest, placing further limits on our freedom to picket during industrial disputes
the Bill threatens and undermines the human right of 'peaceful assembly and association' as contained in Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Article 11 of the UK Human Rights Act.
Conference instructs the Executive to:
a. oppose any attempt by government to use the COVID-19 crisis to limit the right to protest
b. campaign against the whole of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill
c. work with other campaigns – human rights, disabled people's rights organisations, environmental, anti-racist and all those defending the right to protests, and Gypsy Roma and Traveller organisations fighting the criminalisation of their way of life - to oppose and defeat this attack on our rights
d. call for a coordinated Trade Union response to this Bill through the TUC.