Explained: What is the new protest ‘Police Crackdown Bill’ and how do I stop it?

Kill The Bill protests took place this weekend

This weekend, a vigil at Clapham Common in memory of Sarah Everard and other victims of violence against women saw police pinning women to the ground. Patsy Stevenson, a student who says she only went to the vigil to lay a candle, pay respects and show solidarity, was “pushed to the ground forcefully” by “two very large male officers”, and arrested. She said the vigil “turned very scary very quickly”, and she was “terrified”.

This was met with horror, and on Sunday there were protests against the violence used. ‘Kill The Bill’ protests also began at New Scotland Yard, the Metropolitan Police Headquarters, against the new proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which would affect how we can protest.

People are saying if this bill becomes law it would give police more powers for them to “abuse”, and saying it would “disproportionately control” our human right to protest. But what exactly is the bill, and how can we stop it?

Here’s everything you need to know about the Kill The Bill protests and how you can stop the proposed new protest bill:

What is the new protest Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill?

This week, MPs are debating on making the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill law which Priti Patel and the Home Office is attempting to push through – and one thing it would change is how we can protest.

Now, police have to show a protest may result in “serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community” if they want to put restrictions on a protest. They also need to prove protesters know they’ve been told to move on, before it can be said they’ve broken the law.

But if the bill passes, this will change and police will be able to put more conditions on protests. It would make certain aspects of the Coronavirus Act permanent.

kill the bill, Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, protests, explained

Saturday’s Clapham Common vigil (image via Elena Vardon)

They would be able to impose a start and finish time and set noise limits. Protestors would also need to be given permission in advance, and police could ban gatherings that don’t “sufficiently” meet conditions, to prevent “serious public disorder”.

Police would also be able to apply these rules even when only one person is demonstrating – so if an individual person was holding a placard and shouting into a speaker, if they refused to follow police instructions they could be fined up to £2,500.

The proposed new law includes the offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance”, designed to stop people occupying public spaces and employing other protest tactics such as gluing themselves to windows.

It also says damage to memorials could result in up to 10 years in prison.

This follows protests such as the toppling of the Edward Colston statue in Bristol last year during Black Lives Matter demonstrations; and mass occupations by Extinction Rebellion.

kill the bill, Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, protests, explained

Sunday’s protest (image via Lizzie Rose)

What are people saying about the bill and what are the Kill The Bill protests?

Protesting is a human right, and the Home Office says its proposals will respect this. But Labour’s shadow justice secretary David Lammy has called the proposed measures “poorly thought out” and says they “impose disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest”.

Writing for gal-dem, Moya Lothian McLean says the proposed rules, which have been temporarily in place due to the Coronavirus Act, have given the state “enormous authoritarian power using extremely vague language that can be twisted for any purpose”. She says these rules are what allowed Priti Patel “to deem 2020 Black Lives Matter protests as ‘unlawful’ and why officers were deployed to Clapham on Saturday”.

Feminist organisation Sisters Uncut called the bill the “Police Crackdown Bill”, and said: “The police abuse the powers that they already have. Yet the government plans to give them more powers in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This bill is dangerous.”

At Sunday’s Kill The Bill protests, Labour MP for East Nottingham Nadia Whittome said: “This bill will see the biggest assault on protest rights in recent history. If this bill passes, we won’t be able to gather outside Parliament Square anymore in mourning like we are today”.

How can I stop the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill?

Sign Netpol’s Protect Your Freedom To Protest petition, which opposes the proposed bill and calls on the National Police Chiefs Council to adopt a new Charter for Freedom of Assembly Rights.

Write to your MP using this email template, created by Sara Motaghian and Anuradha Damale. (There’s also one in Welsh.)

Obviously, also share the email template and the petition as widely as you can.

Related stories recommended by this writer:

Patsy Stevenson, student arrested at Sarah Everard vigil, says she was ‘terrified’

• All the best signs from this weekend’s Reclaim These Streets protests and vigils

• Stop warning women against walking alone at night. We’re not the problem

Featured image via Lizzie Rose