Activists from different causes remain on the streets to defend the right to protest, reports Jamal Elaheebocus
Several hundred protestors gathered in Parliament Square in London today to protest against the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill, which is currently passing through the House of Lords.
The bill seeks to significantly limit the right to protest, through imposing noise limits on protests, banning protests which cause “serious annoyance” and requiring agreed start and finish times even for static protests.
Other sections of the bill seek to criminalise the Gyspy, Roma and Traveller communities, while also imposing ten-year jail terms on those who damage statues and other monuments.
Protestors in Parliament Square heard from several speakers, including Shami Chakrabarti, Bell Ribeiro-Addy and speakers from Kill the Bill, Drive to Survive and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.
Several speakers outlined how the bill is a response to the huge Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter movements over recent years and an attempt to limit the increasing opposition to the government and the status quo. Speakers from the GRT community detailed how their way of living has been criminalised and stigmatised by the ruling class for decades and how the PCSC bill will further criminalise their community.
Many also spoke of the crisis in Afghanistan which is unfolding at the moment, how those on the Stop the War protests of 2001 warned that the invasion and occupation would be a grave mistake and how they have now been sadly vindicated. This exemplified why the bill is being passed through, to prevent the majority from speaking out against the ruling class’s devastating actions.
The protest then marched down Whitehall and to Trafalgar Square, with drums being played at the front of the march and protestors chanting “Kill the Bill”, “No Justice, No Peace, No Racist Police” and “Stand up, fight back”.
Despite the fact that the bill passed through the Commons and looks likely to become law, the mood on the protest was defiant and indicates that if the bill becomes law, protestors will only become more determined and protests will continue despite it. As Bell Ribeiro-Addy reminded the crowd, the Kill the Bill protests earlier this year managed to delay the bill passing through Parliament and therefore it will be on the streets that this bill is defied and defeated.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill will be one of many reasons why we will be marching against the Tories at the Tory Party conference in Manchester this October.
Boris Johnson’s government has become increasingly corrupt and authoritarian in the past year using the Coronavirus crisis to line the pockets of billionaire donors and to attempt to curtail the right to demonstrate. The covid crisis and the Tories’ appalling handling of it has exposed their disregard for working class people and has resulted in increased opposition to them and the capitalist status quo.
The Tories are well aware of the fact that it has been through mass protest where the working class have fought most successfully for their rights and against the capitalist system. From the Chartists and the Suffragettes fighting for the right to vote, to the anti-war movement of the early 2000s, from the protests against the poll tax which brought down Thatcher to the climate strikes of recent years, every major struggle has been on the streets.
That is why the ruling class are attempting to limit our ability to challenge them through protest and that is why we must defend that right and say loud and clear that the Tories are not fit to govern.
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