Defend the right to protest

Submitted by AWL on 16 March, 2021 - 5:14 Author: Gerry Bates
Defend the right protest

Police action to disperse the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard on 14 March (with violence) and a health workers’ pay protest in Manchester on 7 March (with a £10,000 fine) has sparked a wave of street protests.

These protests have won a first victory, just by taking place with large numbers. Police have been largely compelled to back off.

The next aim is to defeat the new Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which the Tories announced on 9 March and are trying to rush through.

The Labour front bench first planned to abstain on the Bill, but has now been pushed into opposing it.

The police already have far too many reserve powers against protests, increased over the years by the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 and the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act 2005.

Covid lockdown rules have also been used against protests, and only by a court case brought by the Unite union has the right to picket been upheld under those rules.

But police action to crowd protesters together, or bundle them into police vans, is more likely to increase infection than outdoors protest well stewarded by the protesters themselves.

A survey by the USA’s official National Bureau for Economic Research has found no Covid-spread effect from the huge Black Lives Matter protests there in summer 2020, even despite the heavy arrests.

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