Protest rights


Posted on 01 Nov 2022

  • Zombies descend on Westminster as Public Order Bill brings proposals already rejected in the Policing Act back from the dead
  • More than 300,000 people sign petition demanding Home Secretary drops measures that include 24/7 GPS tracking of protesters, expanding suspicionless stop and search, and criminalising tactics such as linking arms with other demonstrators
  • Liberty and Greenpeace UK say these measures will make it unsafe for marginalised communities to protest

Zombies descended on the House of Lords this terrifying Tuesday to highlight draconian anti-protest measures that have been resurrected by the Government in its Public Order Bill – up for its second reading in the Lords this afternoon.

The measures included are the same ones completely rejected by the Lords in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act earlier this year.

Greenpeace UK staff and volunteers in full zombie costume and makeup were joined by staff from Liberty and other civil rights organisations to call on the Lords, once again, to kill these proposals.

Earlier this morning the groups sent a joint petition signed by more than 300,000 people into the Home Office, calling on the Home Secretary to drop the ‘zombie’ proposals and end all attempts to suppress the fundamental right to protest.

The groups say that the Public Order Bill as it stands will make it unsafe for people to stand up for what they believe in, disproportionately impacting minority and vulnerable groups.

Among the proposals in the Bill are plans to introduce Serious Disruption Prevention Orders (SDPOs) which can effectively ban people from attending protests – including individuals who have never been convicted of a criminal offence – and subject individuals to conditions like 24/7 GPS tracking.

The Bill also introduces new offences around locking-on – the tactic synonymous with women’s rights movements – which the groups say will widen the dragnet and potentially criminalise protesters for simply linking arms.

Civil liberties campaigners say the introduction of protest-related stop and search measures, including suspicionless stop and search, is not only a gross expansion of police power but will further entrench racism in the criminal justice system.

The coalition of civil rights organisations have called these resurrected measures “unwelcome and unwanted”, calling again for protest rights to be safeguarded and protected by the Government instead.

Martha Spurrier, Director at Liberty said:

“Protest is a fundamental right, not a gift from the State. But our right to protest continues to be attacked by a Government determined to silence people and hide from accountability.

“With the ink on the Policing Act not yet dry, the Government is trying to resurrect dangerous anti-protest proposals that the people and Parliament have already loudly rejected just a matter of months ago. These draconian proposals strike at the very heart of protest and could potentially criminalise anyone who takes to the streets for a cause they believe in.

“Protest banning orders will drastically expand the surveillance and punishment of protesters, even those who’ve never been convicted of a crime. New stop and search powers, and creation of new offences will further entrench discrimination and make it unsafe for people from marginalised communities to stand up for their rights.

“From championing refugee rights to raising the alarm on the cost-of-living crisis, striking for workers’ rights, and fighting for racial and climate justice, protest today remains a crucial way for people to hold the Government to account. The House of Lords must once again reject these dangerous proposals and instead protect our fundamental right to protest.”

Megan Corton-Scott, Greenpeace UK policy advisor, said:

“There seems to be a running theme at the Home Office for bringing back unwanted and unwelcome proposals, as well as the people attempting to push them through.

“Suella Braverman has picked up where Priti Patel left off with this zombie Public Order Bill, but this attempt to overthrow democracy when it comes to peaceful protest has already been rejected by the Lords once.

“The fact this government, like the last, is yet again trying to crack down on our right to peacefully protest has echoes of authoritarianism. It’s crucial now that peers see through ministers’ dirty tactics of renaming and repackaging the same draconian measures and this time kill them off once and for all.”

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