What’s the government’s first bill of the new Parliament? Something to tackle sky-high energy bills? Something to address the climate crisis? Something to address the NHS staffing crisis? Of course not.
It’s another piece of authoritarian anti-protest legislation to make it harder for us to protest their failure to do any of these things. It’s a clear sign that the government’s top priority is making it harder to protest the cost of living crisis and not helping people through it.
The Public Order Bill takes the attack on civil liberties we saw with the Policing, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Act one step further. In a show of their determination to attack our civil liberties, it is being steamrollered through, reviving the failed measures they attempted to sneak into the earlier Act – which were rightly thrown out by the Lords.
“This Bill contains measures that would have banned the protests that won votes for women”
As well as ramping up police powers to restrict 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.
From the Abolitionists to the Suffragettes and the Chartists, our country’s rich tradition of dissent paved the pathway for the rights and freedoms we all enjoy today. Demonstrations and direct action are the reason that someone of my race, gender, and class has the rights I do. This Bill contains measures that would have banned the protests that won votes for women and trade unions.
This article was first published in Politics Home on the 23rd May 2022.