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It could mean the police placing start and finish times on protests, or shutting down protests if they restrict access in and out of Parliament. Anyone who does not stick to these conditions could be fined £2,500.
Protests are designed to attract attention to a cause or issue and the most effective way to do that is by being as noisy and visible as possible. Opponents to the Bill say its vague wording could mean it is used to stamp out any and all dissent.
“This will be the biggest widening of police powers to impose restrictions on public protest that we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” Chris Daw QC, a leading barrister and author, told The Big Issue.
“The bill hands over the power of deciding whether a protest is justified or should be allowed — decisions we as citizens have had for generations — directly to the Home Secretary. That’s an extremely chilling development. It’s completely contradictory to everything the liberty of the free citizen is about in Britain.”
The bill could put marginalised people more at risk, opponents have warned. It widens stop and search powers for police, making it easier to search people who were convicted of carrying a knife in the past. But existing laws are well-documented as discriminating against young black men, particularly in London.
On April 27, lawyers told Parliament’s joint committee on human rights that the bill’s provisions for clamping down on protests because of “noise” and “unease” were vague and subject to interpretation, according to the Guardian. A potential 10-year sentence for public nuisance was described as “disproportionate”.
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Home Secretary Priti Patel has focussed on elements of the bill designed to address sentencing for sexual offences and violent crime when discussing it in parliament, describing them as “crucial measures… to support victims of violent crimes including young women and girls”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson took a similar angle when speaking to the BBC in March, highlighting the increase in sentences for rapists and stopping the early release of sexual and violent offenders in what he called “a very sensible package of measures” .
When are the next Kill the Bill protests?
More than 30 protests have been organised across the UK for the final bank holiday weekend in May.
Collective Action, a group of “aggravated activists” from across the UK who say they are fighting for racial equality and abolition, created a map of the protests so people can find one in their local area.
From Stirling to Penzance, there are rallies and marches planned throughout the UK. Remember to check the details with the local organisers so you can remain within the law and protest safely.
What happens next?
The Bill was expected to go to the committee stage in the week after it passed its second reading, a week filled with protests across the country. Days after the vote, however, the parliamentary website stated it was not expected back in the House of Commons until June 24.
“The last week has shown that protest works,” a spokesperson for Sisters Uncut said after the news it had been delayed. “That’s why they want to ban it, and that’s why we’re fighting back.”