The Worst Assault On Our Right To Protest In Recent History, Commons Hears

"The Home Secretary despises Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter, having described them as hooligans, thugs and criminals".
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Nadia Whittome MP said the expansion of powers in the Bill was at a level “that should not be seen in any modern democracy.”  “This marks a descent into authoritarianism and we’re debating this today because the Home Secretary despises Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter, having described them as hooligans, thugs and criminals. “Make no mistake, this is the biggest assault on our right and freedom to protest in recent history.” Even DUP MP Gavin Robinson added that the “loose and lazy way” the Bill is drafted would “make a dictator blush.”  Morning Star

A ‘Blatant Attempt To Create An Authoritarian Police State’

150 groups, including Unite the union, Liberty, Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion and End Violence Against Women, raised “profound concern and alarm” over the draconian new powers in a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel and Justice Secretary Robert Buckland on Sunday.  The rights groups warn that the proposals, which include measures to prevent protest outside Parliament and increase penalties for breaches of conditions on demonstrations, would amount to “an attack on some of the most fundamental rights of citizens.” Concerns have also been raised about the creation of criminal penalties for protesters who cause “serious annoyance” and the expansion of powers to shut down demonstrations if they cause “serious unease.” Morning Star 

A Direct Racist Attack On The Gipsy, Romany and Traveller Communities

“The harm created by this legislation which criminalises trespass will be felt immediately and for generations to come. It will push Gypsies and Travellers into the criminal justice system, merely for existing nomadically. It will put communities who have been widely recognised as being amongst the most marginalised and disadvantaged groups at further risk and compound the inequalities experienced.” Friends,Families & Travellers

And Where Was Keir Starmer, Labour’s Civil Rights Leader?

Diane Abbott, MP: “Keir Starmer wanted to abstain on it (the Bill). The campaign group Liberty summed up the problems with the legislation when it said: “These plans are a staggering assault on our right to protest as well as an attack on other fundamental rights. Police already have extensive powers to restrict protests, and frequently go beyond them even though it is their duty to facilitate the exercise of this right. The proposals in the policing bill are an opportunistic bid from the government to permanently erode our rights.” Once again, Keir Starmer was unmoved by the arguments of human rights campaigners. 

A former police chief warned that new protest laws move Britain dangerously towards “paramilitary policing” and that UK ministers are “flexing their muscles via their police forces” like repressive regimes around the world. The warning (came) from Michael Barton, the former chief constable of Durham […] Another former senior policing leader, Sir Peter Fahy, told the Guardian they held deep concerns about the dangers the new laws posed for civil liberties.” Guardian

But like the three wise monkeys Starmer and his team did not wish to register these warnings, until, as Diane Abbott explained, “Women campaigning on violence against women wanted to hold a peaceful vigil in Clapham Common near where the murder victim Sarah Everard was last seen alive […] the resultant images of male police officers manhandling and handcuffing women, who were actually on a peaceful vigil about male violence, horrified the public. It also demonstrated that police had plenty of powers to deal with peaceful protest. The real issue was stopping the police abuse of existing powers. In this context, even the (the Labour) leadership realised that abstaining on legislation designed to give the police even more powers to crack down on peaceful protest was simply not sustainable.” Diane Abbott

In other words, Starmer’s instinct is to be a component the law and order lobby, but when he realised how unpopular this would make him, he bent with the wind.