In the UK there is a proud tradition of protest. If not for the right to protest the right for women to vote just wouldn’t exist today.
The climate debate, a conversation that is far from over, would not be as advanced or as accepted as it now without our activists noisily and disruptively holding government and big business to account for environmental degradation on a massive scale. The BLM movement could not have entered into mainstream consciousness without being noisy and disruptive. Hopefully, you might note a theme emerging around two adjectives: Noisy and Disruptive.
In the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, currently being accelerated through parliament by our democratically elected government, it is proposed that our right to protest should be severely curtailed through the introduction of punitive measures that are disproportionate to the actions.
You can be imprisoned for attending a protest deemed ‘noisy’ or ‘disruptive’ .
Can a protest really be deemed a protest if it is not both of these things?
The trouble is this; the bill does not clearly define what is meant by noisy or disruptive. It is open to interpretation by those authorities on the ground at the time of the protest. The bill also proposes imprisonment for merely being found in possession of carrying protest equipment such as a banner or a placard. This bill could be read as an attempt to use the most extreme forms of protest to eradicate all forms of protest. It’s taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut.
That’s not right
We believe that protest is a vital part of democracy. We believe that restricting the rights of people to speak out does not create a healthy, diverse and prosperous society; nor does it create the conditions in which businesses can grow and innovate. Peaceful protest about the climate emergency and the loss of biodiversity such as the school strikes have been critical in raising public awareness and shifting government positions around the world.
We believe this bill will further marginalise the voices of people who are already marginalised, and who are merely advocating for a better future. We believe it is our moral obligation to stand against this bill in its present format.