“The government wants us to forget about the #PoliceCrackdownBill”, says left-wing feminist group Sisters Uncut, who have taken a lead in mobilising protests. We must “make sure this does not happen...”
There will be more protests on 17 and 18 April. The government has delayed the Police Bill’s progress in Parliament, and maybe for a good while. The issue has fallen out of the media, but protests have continued across the country, including in many places which do not often see left-wing protests. Activists are working to sustain and focus the anger about the Tories’ assault on democracy, particularly among young people, to maximise the chances of the Bill being withdrawn or at least gutted.
Every socialist, every labour movement activist, everyone who cares about human rights should get out on the streets. If there is no protest in your area, organise one. Organise a meeting to get activists in this in your area together. Organise a meeting or a group to raise these issues in your union, workplace or industry. Get your union banner and a workplace contingent on the next protest.
Raising this in the unions, and pushing to mobilise them, is vital. Despite the threat the bill poses to already restricted rights to strike and picket, few unions have said much, let alone mobilised their members. The normally left-wing and combative Fire Brigades Union put out a statement in the first days of the movement, and then deleted it when the Police Federation attacked it on social media.
We need a push in the Labour Party — to mobilise members and to push to commit the party on the wider issues. The Labour leadership opposed the Bill in Parliament only after being swept along by the first street protests, and only weakly. They remain committed to a general “more police” policy. We should start discussion about pushing back the curbs on older rights to protest which are already there in laws from 2011, 1994, and 1986. Labour in Parliament opposed the Public Order Act 1986, and then let it stand when it returned to office.
The left needs to develop clear demands for curbing the police and criminal justice system in favour of expanded public services and social provision, and strengthening the right to protest. We’ll work to open debate on these issues in the unions and in the Labour Party — including at Labour conference in September.