Coronavirus / Protest rights

Liberty challenges police on cancelled trans rights protest

Posted on 11 Nov 2020

Liberty is preparing a legal action against the Met after officers wrongly threatened to arrest and fine organisers of a trans rights protest, causing the protest to be cancelled.

  • Protest cancelled after police warned of arrests and fines
  • Met’s action breached protest rights and was discriminatory
  • Trans Rights Collective UK and Liberty appeal to Cressida Dick to ensure that this does not happen again

Liberty is preparing a legal action against the Metropolitan Police Service (the Met) after officers wrongly threatened to arrest and fine organisers of a trans rights protest, causing the protest to be cancelled.

The protest, organised by Trans Rights Collective UK, was due to take place in Parliament Square on 5 September this year.

At the time coronavirus laws allowed protests to take place if certain requirements had been met [1]. Trans Rights Collective UK had met these requirements and Met police officers had assured organisers the protest could go ahead.

But the day before the protest, an officer contacted one of the organisers and told them the protest breached “coronavirus laws”. The officer said organisers and anyone assisting them could be arrested and fined if the protest went ahead – forcing Trans Rights Collective UK to cancel.

In a letter to Cressida Dick, the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, human rights organisation Liberty said the threats of arrests and fines, which effectively forced the protest to be cancelled, were unlawful because:

  • Trans Rights Collective UK is a political body and as such is allowed to organise protests under coronavirus laws providing certain health and safety measures are taken, which they had been
  • It breached the protest rights of the organisers and participants under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) – namely Freedom of Expression (Article 10) and Freedoms of Assembly and Association (Article 11)
  • It was discriminatory – breaching the rights of the organisers and protestors under the ECHR Prohibition of Discrimination (Article 14) – because other protests, including by Extinction Rebellion, were allowed to go ahead at a similar time with conditions

Rebeckah Turbett, police liaison and co-organiser at Trans Rights Collective UK (pronouns they/them), said: “Trans voices have been silenced for too long. Despite holding a safe and peaceful protest in July and complying in full with all the police demands for this protest – which we strived to ensure was as Covid safe as possible during a global pandemic – we were halted at the eleventh hour. This was both unlawful and yet again silenced marginalised voices which needed to be heard ahead of the Government’s announcement on Gender Recognition Act reform.

“We will not allow police to curb the rights of individuals to protest against the decisions by the Government which harm the physical and mental health of not only trans and non-binary people, but marginalised groups throughout the country. We thank Liberty for all their help in ensuring this case be brought to justice.”

Lana Adamou, lawyer at Liberty, said: “We should all be able to stand up for what we believe in – but the Met’s misuse of Coronavirus legislation stopped people who care about trans rights from doing that.

“Time and again it is the most marginalised who bear the brunt of over-zealous policing – making it even more important that their voices are heard. This decision not only wrongly stopped advocates of trans rights from being heard, it also appears to have been discriminatory as other protests were allowed to go ahead.

“Protest is a core pillar of any healthy democracy which must be protected. At the time of this protest coronavirus legislation made specific provision for this, whatever the political cause being protested.

“People must not be criminalised en masse for voicing opposition to Government action – even in the context of a pandemic. Police must facilitate our right to protest, not stand in our way.”

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