Gypsy, Roma and Traveller rights / Protest rights / Stop and search

Leading organisations join condemnation of policing bill

Posted on 15 Mar 2021

  • Letter signed by leading charities and campaigners
  • Parliament due to vote on policing Bill tomorrow
  • Bill is an authoritarian crackdown on protest and Gypsy and Traveller communities

Hundreds of charities, community groups and campaign organisations have united to condemn the Government’s new policing Bill and called on MPs to block this dangerous crackdown on civil liberties.

In a letter coordinated by Liberty and Friends of the Earth and sent to the Home Secretary and Justice Secretary today, 15 March, 245 organisations said the Government’s proposals were cause for “profound concern”.

Parliament is debating the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill today. The organisations highlighted numerous threats to our rights, including “draconian” police powers to restrict protests and new trespass offence that criminalises the way of life of nomadic Gypsy and Traveller communities.

The signatories span a wide range of issues, including Amnesty International, Greenpeace, the Ramblers, the RSPB, Unite, Rights of Women, INQUEST and the Northern Police Monitoring Project. They warned that there has been far too little time for campaigners and MPs to properly scrutinise the legislation, which was only revealed in Parliament late on 9 March, just six days before it came before MPs for debate.

The letter concludes:

“[T]his Bill represents an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens, in particular those from marginalised communities, and is being driven through at a time and in a way where those who will be subject to its provisions are least able to respond.”

Gracie Bradley, Liberty’s Interim Director, said: “Protest isn’t a gift from the State – it’s our fundamental right and under human rights law, States have an obligation to facilitate protest not suppress it. Yet this is what this Bill seeks to achieve. Not content with all but banning protest during the pandemic, the Government is now using this public health crisis as cover to make emergency measures permanent. Its new policing Bill is an all-out assault on basic civil liberties.

“Not only does this Bill hand police the choice on where, when and how people can protest, it also threatens to criminalise the entire way of life of nomadic Gypsy and Traveller communities and creates new stop and search powers that will exacerbate discriminatory over-policing of people of colour, subjecting people to profiling and State harassment.

“The dangerous policing of the Sarah Everard vigil follows a growing crackdown on protest throughout this pandemic, including the issuing of exorbitant fines to protest organisers in the summer, the aggressive kettling of Black Lives Matter protesters during a pandemic and the suppression of a two-person protest about the appalling and inhumane conditions at Napier Barracks. The prospect of giving police even more power to control and limit our right to protest is incredibly dangerous.

“We cannot allow these powers to pass. We must stand up for our right to live our lives free from undue state interference and our right to free expression. Now is the time for us to come together to stand up to this aggressive and egregious power grab.”

Dave Timms, head of political affairs at Friends of the Earth, said: “Protest is the lifeblood of democracy and our environment is better for it. Time and time again peaceful protest has been central to positive changes making our lives healthier, defending communities, and protecting the planet. This bill threatens to seriously undermine a fundamental part of democracy and takes away the rights of marginalised communities, and any citizen, to have their voice heard and hold the powerful to account.”

The full letter and list of signatories is available here.

Contact the Liberty press office on 020 7378 3656 / 07973 831 128 or

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