Kill the Bill London protest, May day Kill the Bill London protest, May day. Photo: Shabbir Lakha

On International Workers’ Day, protesters marched for a third national day of action against the impending expansion of police powers. Counterfire reports from around the country

London – Shabbir Lakha

Several thousand people assembled in Trafalgar Square for today’s Kill the Bill demonstration. There was a diverse range of organisations represented and several unions including UVW, IWGB, UCU, RMT and Unison. 

A number of speakers talked about the dangers the Police and Crime Bill poses and the need for resistance, as well as more generally the role of the police, the criminal justice system and state violence. As it’s May Day, there was also an emphasis on both the threat to workers and the role of organised workers in winning our democratic rights in the first place.

The protest then set off amidst red and purple smoke flares and marched past Buckingham Palace and down to the Home Office where there was a closing rally. The mood was defiant and energetic and there was a lot of support for the People’s Assembly national demonstration on 26 June where we’ll have the opportunity to step up the fight in a big way.

Photo: Shabbir Lakha
Photo: Shabbir Lakha
Photo: Shabbir Lakha

Luton – Janet Oryem

Photo: Janet Oryem
Photo: Janet Oryem
Photo: Janet Oryem

Margate – Tim Licence

Margate was surprisingly quiet, for a sunny bank holiday weekend, except for 150 Kill the Bill demonstrators. A broad group of all ages gathered, families and friends, some with their dogs and even a few proudly wearing their dog collars (of the religious variety), to protest against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The event organised by the Kent Anti-Racism Network gathered by the beach before taking over two lanes on the seafront road and walking to the police station, with many onlookers and drivers expressing their interest and support.

Outside the police station, several local activists addressed the crowd about local protest movements they are involved with including an NHS campaigner, Extinction Rebellion and other environmentalists. Of course, this May Day protest wouldn’t have been complete without a Jack in the Green, or two, who led with the rhythm of their drum.

Photo: Tim Licence
Photo: Tim Licence
Photo: Tim Licence

Hastings – Leah Levane

Hastings Trades Council, together with many local campaign groups marched through Hastings Town Centre calling to “Defend The Right to Protest – Kill The Bill”.  Starting by the Workers’ Memorial Tree in Cornwallis Garden, participants and bystanders listened to speeches at three points; from the Trades Council Secretary, a local Roma journalist and activist, a local University and College Union rep, the Chair of Hastings & Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign, local councillors, Stand Up To Racism representative.  Refugee support groups were also present and much support was shown from local shoppers and small businesspeople. We will keep fighting and we will keep campaigning together uniting all who will be deeply affected in the event that this pernicious Bill becomes law.

Photo: Leah Levane
Photo: Leah Levane

Oxford – Mic Dixon

Over 100 demonstrators marched from Cowley to Oxford City Centre in support of UK wide #KillTheBill actions. Traffic slowed and people on the sidewalks raised fists in support of the protesters. Representatives from Trades Unions joined with local and national campaigns in loud and enthusiastic chants and slogans.

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

Aberystwyth – Jan Culley

Photo: Jan Culley
Photo: Jan Culley

Manchester – Chris Neville

In Manchester, hundreds gathered at St Peter’s Square to protest the bill. There was a strong trade union presence and the demo organised by the Manchester KTB coalition included speakers from the Trades Council, Sisters Uncut, Manchester Momentum and Manchester People’s Assembly.

There was also the bizarre scene of another Kill the Bill demo occurring simultaneously, less than 100 metres away, which was a result of groups unable or unwilling to find a way to work together.

The two demos did eventually join for a long march through the city centre which stopped traffic and was led by the ever wonderful PCS samba band.

If demonstrations against the bill are to have maximum effect, all protest groups must find a way to put aside their differences and work together for a single cause – to kill the bill. The stakes are too high to allow division or sectarianism to divide us.

Photo: Chris Neville
Photo: Chris Neville

Enfield, London – Elaine Graham-Leigh

This was the first time in many years that Enfield has seen a May Day demonstration, but the people gathering on Chase Side, Enfield for May Day 2021 were determined to send a message of resistance to the Tory government. Speakers from trades unions, RMT, NEU, UCU, Unite Community, campaigns like XR and the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, and other local activists stressed the need for solidarity in the face of threats to our rights to protest and the new wave of Tory austerity and attacks on workers’ rights. The task now is to build the Enfield contingent for the People’s Assembly demonstration on 26th June as large as possible.

Photo: Elaine Graham-Leigh

Sheffield – Mike McCarthy

This was Sheffield’s fourth and largest protest against the Police Bill.

It was clear from the turnout and the number of organisation and Trade Union banners on display that the anger continues to grow against this blatant attack on our democratic rights. It was encouraging to see clear political connections being made with the trade unionists and rent striking students in Sheffield fighting back against attacks on their rights by employers and University management.

Trade unionists from the platform highlighted the plight of British Gas workers and bus workers in Manchester who are fighting back against the odious fire and rehire policies of the bosses as they seek to exploit the Covid pandemic to attack workers’ basic rights and conditions. A cheer rang out with the news of the success of the Manchester bus driver’s fightback.

It was clear all in the audience that we are all engaged in the same fight. The overarching message from the day was that our strength lies in our solidarity. We must join in the fight for our rights, for justice and for democracy. History has shown us that nothing will be handed down to us. Change when it comes will come from below.

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

Bath – Johanna Everritt

Photo: Johanna Everritt

Doncaster – John Westmoreland

In the absence of the usual May Day march and rally, People’s Assembly activists met in the town centre to leaflet for the National Demonstration: Demand a New Normal, on June 26 and to call for the Police and Crime bill to be scrapped.

Doncaster People’s Assembly is petitioning the candidates in the mayoral election to demand that if they are elected they will refuse to award contracts to any company using Fire and Rehire.

The trade unionists we spoke to are dismayed that this issue is not being taken up by the TUC and Labour Party.

Photo: Doncaster People’s Assembly

Brighton – Liv Singh

On a cold May Day, a smaller but nonetheless defiant Kill the Bill demo marched through the streets. Unlike the previous more spontaneous KtB demos this one was organised through the Trades Council with many union banners on display.

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

Newcastle – David McAllister

The accumulated discontent and anger showed no sign of disappearing today as hundreds of activists assembled at Monument, building on previous demos to take on the draconian bill.

Being an issue which unites activists from a number of causes, this was reflected in Newcastle, as groups from Stand Up To Racism, People’s Assembly, North East Against Racism, Extinction Rebellion and others made their presence felt.

Speaking for People’s Assembly, I promoted the National Demonstration on June 26 (for which we now have a coach) which brought enthusiastic responses. The rally was followed by a loud and vibrant march up Percy Street to chants of “whose streets, our streets!” 

Let’s continue to build on this movement towards a fighting left which can powerfully confront this rotten government’s attempts to make workers pay the cost of the crisis.

Photo: David McAllister
Photo: David McAllister

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