A win for democracy and the right to protest

The campaign against the government’s anti-protest laws shows that people power is alive and well.


No you’re not dreaming – there’s actually some good news to share today.

On Monday night the House of Lords voted to protect our right to protest! They rejected every amendment that the government shoved into the Policing Bill at the very last minute. That’s a clear win for our democracy and our freedoms.

It’s beyond fitting that the huge protests against the Bill played a key role in defeating the government. People power is alive and well.

Thank you to everyone that marched, emailed MPs, signed petitions and demanded change. This wouldn’t have been possible without you.

The government’s strategy backfired – and people power came out on top

Now the Bill will go through a stage known as “ping-pong”. That’s where it goes back and forth from the Commons to the Lords before it becomes law. But some of the worst protest bits – that the Lords rejected – now can’t be added back in. That’s because the government added these as last-minute amendments to avoid scrutiny.

So ironically, it’s these failed underhand tactics that mean we’re now safe from:

  • New rules criminalising locking on.
  • New “Serious Disruption Prevention Orders”. This is a kind of ‘protest ASBO’ ​​which individuals could be given without even being convicted of a crime.
  • Expanded stop-and-search powers against protestors.
  • Banning protests on major infrastructure  – which are often the source of massive environmental damage.

No time for complacency

But we can’t fully celebrate just yet. There are still many proposals in the Bill which pose a huge threat to our civil liberties. As it stands the Bill will make causing “serious annoyance” a crime – a direct threat to effective protest. MPs can also try to bring back plans to restrict noise and banning protests around parliament, because they were in the Bill from the start.

The Bill also still contains other oppressive bits. For example the part criminalising trespass will endanger Roma, Gypsy and Traveler communities’ way of life. Then there’s the expansion of suspicionless stop and search (not relating to protest). This will disproportionately target Black men and boys.

That said, what we achieved as a collective movement this week is very significant. It shows what we can do when we work together. And whilst we can’t get complacent, it’s important to stake stock.

I read something from activist and writer Shanice McBean that resonated with me. ”Small victories will be vital; they will sustain you, keep the movement alive and allow people to believe that victory is possible”.

There is more work to do to protect our civil liberties and stop the most unjust parts of the Bill. So let’s keep up the momentum, we’ve got an important couple of weeks ahead!

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