London Kill the Bill protest, 17 April London Kill the Bill protest, 17 April. Photo: Tom Lock Griffiths

For a second national day of action, protesters marched in towns and cities across the country to oppose the Tory crackdown on protest and police violence; Counterfire members report

London – Shabbir Lakha

Over a thousand protesters gathered in central London in continued protest against the Police and Crime Bill. The protest chose to assemble at the Wellington Arch to point to the colonial legacy of Arthur Wellesley to whom the memorial is dedicated.

There was a marked increase in police presence with the surrounding roads up to Leicester Square, down to Victoria and Parliament flanked by lines of police, and with groups of riot police waiting not at all suspiciously round corners.

Nonetheless protesters were undeterred. Groups of left wing activists, Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion protesters, students and others came together in joint opposition to the police and the plans to increase their powers. Chants of ‘kill the bill’, ‘racist police off our streets’, and ‘Boris Johnson’s a racist’ rang through the streets.

The protest was also met with the nauseating display of “salutation” to Prince Philip whose funeral was taking place in Windsor today. But despite some attempts by police to ask protesters if they would observe a minute’s silence for the dead royal at 3pm, protesters instead chose at that time to read out the names of the victims of police violence during a sit-in outside Downing Street, followed by a ten minute silence in their memory.

There was a huge appetite for more protest and leaflets for the People’s Assembly national demonstration on 26 June were well received, and there were cheers at the announcement of the next day of action on May day – which will likely have far more trade union participation than we’ve so far seen. If the Tories think this is going to end quietly, they are sorely mistaken.

Photo: Tom Lock Griffiths
Photo: Tom Lock Griffiths
Photo: Tom Lock Griffiths

Luton – Luton Counterfire

Luton campaigners ensured the momentum around the Kill the Bill message was sustained within the community with a lively presence in the post-lockdown town centre.

A key development in today’s protest was an improved local trade union presence.

Luton Kill the Bill organiser Ricky Oates says, “We’re pleased with today’s demonstration and we’re looking forward to integrating more campaigns affected by the outrageous bill in future mobilisations”.

Teachers’ union banner at the head of Luton’s demo. Photo: Attiq Malik

Doncaster – Mick Wattam

Doncaster People’s Assembly held a Kill The Bill demonstration in the civic square today and it was good to see around 35 activists, old and new, turn out for the event. Obviously we would have liked more people there but it was a start to what we hope will be a new beginning to street protests both locally and nationally.

It was great to have speakers from Extinction Rebellion and Unite and other local activists. We all have different opinions, come from different organisations and campaigns, but there is no reason why we can not come together like we did today, hopefully in increasing numbers, to defeat this hugely restrictive bill designed to silence protest across the UK.

Coming up we are planning a return to marching round Doncaster to celebrate May Day, international workers day, which will be another chance for us all to get together. Then we will move on to the national demonstration called by the People’s Assembly on Saturday 26 June, which, after Covid, will ‘Demand a New Normal’. We are organising coach(es) from Doncaster for what is sure to be an exciting occasion.

Photo: Mick Wattam
Photo: Mick Wattam

Newcastle – David McAllister

Around 100 people gathered at Monument for another loud and vibrant demo against the draconian Bill which is due to reach its final reading next month. Noise was the order of the day, as this demo was attended by a group of drummers, and a rock band which played a short set during the rally. As with previous demos, speakers from a range of causes came together to emphasise that an attack on the right to protest is an attack on us all. 

A student speaker reminded us of the attack on students last summer with the cruel grading algorithm and called for a new normal for education. A young woman bravely related her own story of sexual assault, which helped to keep systemic violence against women firmly in the frame. 

Speakers from Extinction Rebellion, Acorn, Stand up to Racism and other groups gave powerful contributions, while myself and others from North East People’s Assembly promoted the National Demonstration on Saturday 26 June.  The event finished with a loud march towards the civic centre and a show of resolve amongst all present to carrying on fighting for this most basic of civil liberties in a crisis which the Tories want to make us pay for.

Photo: David McAllister
Photo: David McAllister
Photo: David McAllister

Oxford – Mic Dixon

Over 300 people joined the second #KillTheBill protest for protest in Oxford’s Bonn Square. Noisily, but not annoyingly, they made their presence felt by the post-lockdown Saturday afternoon shoppers returning to the Westgate. Led by drummers from Samba XR the protesters then marched through the City to a series of chants bringing together the wide range of campaign groups united in opposition to the draconian Police Bill.

With some placards turned to face the passers by the message was getting through. I asked some lively kids who had enthusiastically joined in the chanting, ‘What made you stop here and join in then?’  Without a hint of sarcasm, ‘The way he was speaking, it got right to my heart, ‘Do you want to Kill the Bill then?’ – ‘Yeah’ – ‘Do you know what the Bill is?’ – ‘No’ – ‘Are you gonna check it out then?’ – ‘Yeah’. I am hopeful.

Photo: Mic Dixon
Photo: Mic Dixon
Photo: Mic Dixon

Glasgow – Sophie Johnson

Around 100 people from various activist groups including, Extinction Rebellion, Unite, AUOB, SWP and BLM united in solidarity with comrades south of the border who face the impending Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Although the legislation does not directly apply to Scotland, the effects of increased government oppression and negative policing attitudes will be felt UK wide. In Glasgow, with the Scottish elections next month and COP26 around the corner, protecting the right to protest is imperative for us all.

Photo: Sophie Johnson
Photo: Sophie Johnson

Manchester – Lucy Nichols

Today around a hundred protesters gathered in St Peter’s square, Central Manchester as part of a demonstration called by a number of local activist groups against the Police and Crime Bill. The reasonably well-attended protest took the form of an open mic, as people from a variety of ages, backgrounds and political affiliations came together to oppose the Tories’ attempts to clampdown on our ability to protest.

There was lots of support for the next national day of action on May day and for the People’s Assembly’s national demonstration on 26 June. Overall the protest was clear in taking aim at the Tory government, and clear in the need to stand together in a united front to bring them down.

Photo: Lucy Nichols
Photo: Lucy Nichols

Stoke-on-Trent – Joe McCluskey

The Kill the Bill alliance in Stoke held their fifth demo in as many weeks against against the Police, Sentencing and Courts bill outside Hanley bus station. The demo was part of the national day of action. Banners from the north Staffordshire Trades Union Council and the local anti-racist organisation NorScarf (North Staffs campaign against racism and fascism) where there.

The demo of over 50 people was addressed by a number of speakers from various socialist, green and animal rights groups, local BLM activists and members of the LGBT+ community. All spoke well about the damaging affects this legislation will have on the very a basic right to protest.

Everyone who attended were in good spirits and the location was well chosen. The protest was held on Lidice Way, named after the Czech village that was destroyed by the Nazis in 1942 but was rebuilt after a campaign was launched by the miners and union members of Stoke-on-Trent. This largely forgotten part of local history is the sort of catalyst the movement in Stoke can link to in order to build a wider coalition.

In cities like Stoke-on-Trent where working people have faced the brunt of 40+ years of neoliberalism, it’s important to remind people that it’s only when working class people unite and demand change through action that they can win.

Photo: Joe McCluskey
Photo: Joe McCluskey
Photo: Joe McCluskey

Pembrokeshire – Jim Scott

Up to 300 people attended today’s Kill the Bill protest in Pembrokeshire. Organised by a coalition of groups including The People’s Assembly, XR, WASPI, Pembrokeshire Peace Group and anti-racism groups, it was a coming together of the movement to oppose the Police Bill.

There was a police presence of around 6-8 community police officers who were friendly and happy to facilitate our demonstration, a risk assessment had been given to the Police a few days earlier and the demo went peacefully as planned.

Organisers and demonstrators assembled in the Picton Fields at 1pm and by 1.30 we began a march through Haverfordwest and to Castle Square where film crews including ITV Wales were waiting to film our march and interview some of us. As the march approached the old bridge leading to Castle Square, some XR rebels who had constructed a ‘bamboo bus’ entered the road so that the traffic could stop and make way for our march to fill the street for our short walk to the square.

Chants included, ‘Tories Tories Tories, Out Out Out’, ‘Kill, Kill, Kill the Bill’ as well as ‘The people united will never be defeated’, No Justice, no Peace and many more.

XR’s bamboo bus then led the march back through the streets amidst more chants and we made our way back to The Picton fields where many speeches were given including many young people taking the podium to speak in opposition to the Bill, many of these young people were speaking publicly for the first time in their lives and spoke passionately and with great determination that coalitions like this would come together across Britain to oppose and ultimately defeat the Tory’s Police Bill.

The resounding feeling of the demonstration was that united we are stronger and that by working together we can and will defeat the bill. There was strong support for more protest, including for national demonstration on 26 June.

Photo: Jim Scott
Photo: Jim Scott
Photo: Jim Scott

York – Norbert Lawrie

Disquiet over the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill is not going away in any kind of a hurry in York. On a pleasantly warm Saturday afternoon, 150 people gathered to protest for the third time in as many weeks against the police bill making its way through Parliament, speakers from many groups, campaigns and trade unions pledged to stand with Gypsies, Romany and Travellers as supporting them was crucial in the fight against discrimination against minorities from a government of thieves, liars and swindlers who have taken control, robbing us blind, while as one speaker said a journalist languishes in prison for telling the truth.

York pledged to continue to defend the right to demonstrate against injustice and to Kill The Bill.

Photo: Norbert Lawrie
Photo: Norbert Lawrie
Photo: Norbert Lawrie

Sheffield – Mike McCarthy

Once again, Sheffield turned out in numbers to oppose the proposed Police and Crime bill. After displaying banners at the city centre assembly point, protesters marched through the city centre streets angrily chanting their opposition to police violence against women and black people. When the protesters reached the central police station, they staged a sit-in protest and continued to chant and draw attention to the forthcoming state attack on their democratic rights.


Photo: Mike McCarthy
Photo: Mike McCarthy
Photo: Mike McCarthy

Exeter – Pete Stevenson

Today protesters gathered in Exeter again to Kill the Bill. Although it was smaller than the previous one it was important because it keeps the pressure on the government and the right-wing Labour group that controls the council. MPs like the appalling Ben Bradshaw who recently said he would vote for the bombing of Iraq again if he was asked to do so, will be reminded of the power of protest and the opposition they face.  

There were speakers from Exeter CND, Extinction Rebellion, SWP and Stand Up to Racism. The majority appeared to be students from the local college and university. An effective and peaceful event.

Photo: Kat Black
Photo: Kat Black

Newport – Kevin Potter

We had a small socially-distanced rally on the river bank in Newport today. The protest was headed by Black Lives Matter Newport and Stand up to Racism Newport. A few representatives from various froups spoke and there were calls for class solidarity and community. I spoke on behalf of the People’s Assembly about the need to defeat the bill and drew links with the Newport Chartists uprising. People in Newport are determined to keep fighting and there was interest for the national demonstration on 26 June.

Photo: Kevin Potter

Dorchester – Madeline Heneghan

Trade unionists, hunt saboteurs, anti-racist campaigners and clergy gathered in Dorchester, Dorset, home of the Tolpuddle Martyrs, to protest the latest attach on democracy. Speakers talked of the disastrous impact that the government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill will have on workers opposing scurrilous employment practices, Traveller, Gypsy and Roma communities, animal rights activities and those fighting racial injustice. 

Over a hundred of us marched through the town centre accompanied by a lively quartet of drummers, chanting ‘Whose streets, our streets’ and ‘Kill the bill’. Protesters called out local MPs, Chris Loader and Richard Drax, whose family profited massively from the Transatlantic Slave Trade and was recently in the news for failing to declare continuing ownership of a plantation in Barbados and for failure to file accounts for a number of his companies. Dorchester may be a Tory stronghold but today its radical past and present were proudly on display.

Photo: Madeline Heneghan
Photo: Madeline Heneghan
Photo: Madeline Heneghan

Plymouth – Ben Davy

Defiance at the Tories new police bill threatening our democratic rights manifested into a fantastic turnout in Plymouth on Saturday 17 April for #KillTheBill. The event brought hundreds of comrades together from Counterfire, Trade Unions, the Socialist Party, the Socialist Workers Party and many more. Marching through the heart of the city we blasted onlookers and the police to cries against this appalling attack on our human rights. The protest ended with moving minute’s silence for all victims of police brutality.

Photo: Ben Davy
Photo: Ben Davy
Photo: Ben Davy

Brighton – Liv Singh

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Brighton today to continue the protest against the Police anti-protest bill. Sitting down on the road in the spring sunshine with chants of “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Photo: Liv Singh
Photo: Liv Singh
Photo: Liv Singh

Aberystwyth – Jan Culley

Hundreds of protesters gathered again today in Aberystwyth to show resistance to the Police and Crime Bill. Numbers of those protesting had noticeably increased from just two weeks ago when about 300 people had quietly gathered.

The energised crowd marched through the town, halting traffic and drawing the attention of large numbers of people. Banners were held high as the diverse hundreds walked to the music beating from the sound system.

In addition to the organised speakers, there was no shortage of protesters taking the platform when invited, all speaking of the dire consequences if the Bill is successful. The stress on this occasion was the injustice that will be reeked on the Traveller, Roma and Gypsy communities if the Bill is passed and the impact on workers’ freedom to protect their rights.

The event was brought to a successful conclusion with a choir performing their own versions of protest songs with those attending clearly looking to return on 1 May.

Photo: Jan Culley

Bath – Johanna Everritt

Arriving at Bath Abbey at 1.55, I considered the possibility that it might be myself and the 6 police officers present making up the Bath Kill the Bill protest. At that point an officer, assuming I was some sort of ‘leader’ of the protest, asked me what my thoughts were on observing the 3 minute silence for Prince Philip. He was clearly a 1984 aficionado, hoping that his jurisdiction stretched to the internal workings of my brain. I said I was not sure what my thoughts were at that point but when I was, it was unlikely that I would be sharing them with him. It struck me as somewhat ironic that I was being questioned about my noise level intentions whilst protesting about losing my right to make noise.

By 2.15, there were a number of us including hunt saboteurs, XR, students and other protesters: all of us determined not to be down heartened by the minimal turn out. It was a beautiful sunlit afternoon and although it is challenging to demonstrate in a small group, we had no choice but to rise to that challenge. We set off at about 2.30, the general public being kept safe from the 15 of us by 6 police officers who escorted us around the merriment of shoppers. 

We chanted through town and the general public showed a healthy, non-hostile interest, taking photographs and showing us the thumbs up. When we arrived at the train station, we stopped and 2 students delivered speeches. I was impressed by their courage, buoyed by the small group. By this time, we were surrounded by about 12 officers, most of whom had left before the end of my brief address.

On my way home, placards and Counterfire papers in hand, I was stopped by 3 separate groups of young teenagers, all of whom wanted to understand what we had been shouting about. It reminded me that however small the protest, however insignificant you might feel, your voice, in unison with even a small number of others, is heard. It reminded me of the significance of holding on to my right to march the streets of the town I call my home.

Photo: Johanna Everritt
Photo: Johanna Everritt
Photo: Johanna Everritt

There will be another national day of action on 1 May and the People’s Assembly have called a National Demonstration on 26 June

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