KILL THE BILL
Thousands of protesters have taken to the streets of cities across the UK demanding ministers “Kill the Bill” in recent months. People are angry and increasingly concerned that Brits’ democratic rights could be curtailed before the end of the year.
The PCSC Bill is designed to introduce new police powers and review the rules around crime and justice across England and Wales It proposes wide-ranging new police powers when it comes to protests, such as the ability to impose “conditions” on any protest
which is deemed to be disruptive to the local community and up to 10 years in prison for damaging memorials, such as statues.
The legislation also cracks down on trespassing, which in practice puts Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups at risk and threatens to push rough sleepers deeper into homelessness.
“Kill the Bill” is an old protest slogan used around the world, but the recent UK protests started after the PCSC Bill
passed its second reading in Parliament, meaning MPs had voted in favour and it would go to the committee stage for further scrutiny.
The protesters are angry that the Bill would allow police to impose “conditions” — widely seen to mean restrictions or outright bans — on protests if their actions cause “serious annoyance” to the surrounding community, organisations and businesses.
It could mean the police placing start and finish times on protests, or shutting down
protests if they restrict access in and out of Parliament. Anyone who does not stick to these conditions could be fined £2,500.
Protests are designed to attract attention to a cause or issue and the most effective way to do that is by being as noisy and visible as possible. Opponents to the Bill say its vague wording could mean it is used to stamp out any and all dissent.
“The bill hands over the power of deciding whether a protest is justified or should be allowed — decisions we as citizens have had for generations — directly to the Home Secretary. That’s an extremely chilling development. It’s completely contradictory to everything the liberty of the free citizen is about in Britain.”
At the time, England's lockdown regulations did not list protests as a "reasonable excuse" for leaving home - although more than 60 MPs and peers wrote to the home secretary calling for a change in Covid-19 legislation to allow protests to happen during lockdown, saying there is a human right to protest.
While rights groups have long had concerns about the policing bill and its
potential impact on what they say is the essential democratic tool of protest, the legislation was suddenly thrust into the national spotlight after the murder of Ms. Everard.
The 33-year-old vanished off a London street on March 3, and her body was later found in a wooded area. A police officer was charged in her death.
The killing set off a national outcry over violence against women. Then came the day of the vigil.
Officers were widely criticized for breaking up the March 12 event, deemed illegal because of coronavirus restrictions. Images spread quickly showing the police moving in to halt speeches and arrest a group of women denouncing violence.
More broadly, the police's heavy-handed response to the vigil catalyzed the movement against the policing bill, shifting the debate to one about police overreach.
The vigil took place just days before the crime bill was set to be debated in Parliament.
One of the many protests turned riotous in Bristol, where a small group set fire to police vehicles, smashed shop windows and clashed with officers. At least 20 police officers were injured, two seriously, and seven arrests were made, according to the police.
The government has tried to use the passions set off by Ms. Everard’s death to secure passage of the policing bill. The sweeping new police powers it contains, officials argue, would make women safer.
But many others have argued that the bill misses the point. The measure, they argue, fails to address the pervasive misogyny at the heart of crimes committed against women, as well as undermining the right to protest.