Police Bill: organise for a long haul

Submitted by AWL on 4 May, 2021 - 8:05 Author: Sacha Ismail
Police at Police Bill protest

Thousands turned out in London on May Day to oppose the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, and there were demonstrations all over the country.

Workers’ Liberty supporters were there in London and many other places, selling Solidarity and other literature, arguing for a push to bring the labour movement into the Police Bill fight, and to overturn the anti-union laws and other earlier restrictions on the right protest.

The London protest was a welcome change from the usual London May Day, which tends to be smaller, older, and with banners of Stalin and the like, which were completely absent from this demonstration.

It surely had more visible labour movement contingents — UVW, IWGB, some London RMT banners, London UCU, Lambeth Unison, Lewisham NEU, Dulwich and West Norwood Labour Party — than the bigger protest on 3 April, and more individual trade unionists. But despite May Day falling on a Saturday this year, the organised labour movement was still mostly missing in action.

The movement to stop the Police Bill needs the labour movement’s social weight, strategic position in society and politics, and resources. Organised labour needs the movement’s radicalism and grassroots militancy. Both need clear ideas about how we Kill the Bill, and also reverse the decades-long trend to restrict protests which it deepens.

Most unions have said little if anything since the first days after Sarah Everard’s murder and the police riot on Clapham Common (13 March).

Neither trade unionists nor Police Bill activists have discussed it much yet, but the Bill poses a major threat to rights to strike and picket. On 27 April, the Free Our Unions campaign held a briefing on this, with industrial relations expert Gregor Gall speaking.

We don’t know when the Tories will return the Bill to Parliament. We need to find ways to sustain this struggle over the coming weeks.

We should push for more local organising meetings, to draw more people into sustained activity and generate local campaigning, and do the longer-term work of motions and speakers in trade union branches and Labour Parties.

Every trade unionist and Labour Party activist should move a motion in their branch, and advocate the labour movement makes wider “positive” demands about policing and criminal justice, including removing earlier restrictions on the right to protest.

• Northumbria Police attacked young demonstrators at the Newcastle Kill the Bill protest on May Day. Nine were arrested and several more suffered injuries as a result of police aggression. Two young activists were held in cells for ten hours for chalking slogans on Grey’s Monument. A defence campaign is being set up and labour movement, including Labour Party, activists have already pledged more than £200 in support. More here

• The next day of action is set for 29 May

• Model motion. Adapted version for submission to Labour Party conference here

• More on the Police Bill and anti-union laws: Riccardo la Torre’s May Day speech in Southend

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