Police could soon shut down protests before disruption begins

Police could soon be given powers to close down protests before they cause disruption under an amendment to the controversial Public Order Bill being considered by parliament.

The bill is a response to protest tactics, such as blocking roads and slow marching, mainly used by environmental campaigners from Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.

Human rights campaigners have said this would be an attack on the ‘fundamental right’ to protest and could give police a ‘blank cheque’ to shut down protests before they occur.  

The Public Order Bill has already given the police more powers, expanding the use of stop-and-search and making it a statutory offence to be a public nuisance.

people walking near white concrete building

Government spokespeople have said the proposal will mean police can tackle protests ‘before chaos erupts’, with the amendment due to be debated in the House of Lords this week.

Director of human rights organisation Liberty, Martha Spurrier, said: ‘Protest is a fundamental right, not a gift from the State. But our right to protest continues to be attacked by a Government determined to silence people and hide from accountability.

‘These new proposals should be seen for what they are: a desperate attempt to shut down any route for ordinary people to make their voices heard. Allowing the police to shut down protests before any disruption has taken place simply on the off-chance that it might sets a dangerous precedent, not to mention making the job of officers policing protests much more complex.

‘From championing refugee rights to raising the alarm on the cost-of-living crisis, striking for workers’ rights, and fighting for racial and climate justice, protest today remains a crucial way for people to hold the Government to account. This latest attack on our rights must be resisted.’

Recently, more than 100 authors signed a letter in solidarity with climate protesters who have been arrested, with signatories including Helen Pankhurst, Lemn Sisay and Dame Emma Thompson.

Photo by Mika Baumeister


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