This week, I spoke against Tory plans to expand police powers that would further undermine the right to protest and discriminate against people of colour. From the Suffragettes to the Chartists, our country’s rich tradition of dissent paved the pathway for the rights and freedoms we have today but this Bill would ban the protests that won trade unions and votes for women.
As well as introducing further curbs on protest and expanding discriminatory stop and search powers, it would introduce jail sentences and unlimited fines for demonstrating around national infrastructure like airports, railways and printing presses or “locking on” to buildings. Amnesty UK argues that “these authoritarian provisions…. are similar to repressive policies in countries the UK regularly criticises, including Russia, Hong Kong & Belarus”.
I tabled three of my own amendments to push back against this Bill: New Clause 15, for a public inquiry into impact of public order policing on Black, Asian & minority ethnic people; New Clause 16, for a full equality impact assessment of the act published within three months; and New Clause 17, for a public inquiry into protest policing – including the use of force, kettling, police horses and the Policing Act 2022.
Instead of tackling injustices like climate breakdown, low pay, inequality & racism, this Government is doubling down on policies that helped create them and cracking down on people who speak out against them.
In a ray of light in an otherwise dismal and repressive piece of legislation, we did see New Clause 11 included in the Bill. This would introduce mandatory buffer zones outside abortion clinics to ensure don’t have to face harassment and abuse in order to access healthcare – something we have seen all too often outside the MSI Treatment Centre in our constituency.