Unite delegate Susan Matthews spoke out against the police and crime bill – and its implications for peaceful protest – on Tuesday (September 28) at the Labour Party conference.
“It is no coincidence they want to restrict our rights after a wave of widespread public protests, against racism and the deepening climate change disaster,” she said. “Following mass civil disobedience around climate injustice in 2019, and the upsurge of action under the banner of Black Lives Matter in summer 2020, the Prime Minister said that the new powers were needed as the protests had caused ‘huge inconvenience’.”
She warned conference that the government has given the police the power to have an open licence to infiltrate trade unions and labour movements and even commit criminal acts.
“This government want to silence our protests and our freedom as a society,” Susan added. “Protest rights are enshrined in law through freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, Article 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights and legislated through the UK’s own Human Rights Act.
“But the new Bill poses a serious threat to these fundamental rights,” she continued. “Make no doubt about what this government is aiming to achieve by shutting down our voice and interfering with our human rights.”
“Targeting Black Lives Matter will only further entrench racism and discrimination within the criminal justice system,” Susan went on to say, adding that the government is also directly targeting trade unionists.
“At the height of the pandemic, police threatened workers at Unite disputes with penalty notices and fines to break up picket lines,” she noted. “Unite will defend our rights – through whatever means are necessary.”
By Hajera Blagg
Pic by Mark Thomas