Protest rights

Reclaim These Streets Vigil Must Be Allowed

Posted on 12 Mar 2021

Liberty has called for a planned vigil organised by Reclaim These Streets to be allowed, after the Metropolitan Police reversed a previous decision and threatened the organisers with £10,000 fines.

Reclaim These Streets organised a socially distanced vigil in Clapham, London, following the disappearance of Sarah Everard. The Metropolitan Police initially said the demonstration would be allowed, before reversing that decision.

Liberty has called on the police to fulfil their duty to facilitate demonstrations, and for the Government to end its ongoing threats to the right to protest.

Lana Adamou, a lawyer at Liberty, said: “Protest is the lifeblood of a healthy democracy, and it’s critical that those in power do not try to stop us from standing up for what we believe in.

“Safe, socially distanced demonstrations are perfectly possible, and it is the duty of the police to facilitate them, not block them. The current restrictions should be and can be interpreted compatibly with our rights to free expression and assembly enshrined in the Human Rights Act. Threatening prohibitively heavy fines, with the risk of criminal conviction if challenged, for arranging this demonstration is the latest example of blunt powers being used heavy-handedly by police, and our rights being unjustly restricted.

“What’s also concerning is that there are further planned attacks against our right to protest in the long-term, not just in lockdown. This week the Government revealed its new Policing Bill, a wide-ranging piece of legislation which includes numerous opportunistic attacks on our rights, including the right to protest.

“At a time when the Government has given itself enormous powers in ways that affect all of us, it’s more important than ever that we can hold power to account.

“With lockdown easing, our rights must be returned in full. We must be able to stand up for what we believe in – we must protect our right to protest.”

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