Taking liberties

Unite organiser Joe Rollin explains all you need to know about the police and crime bill - and how you can fight back against this attack on our right to protest

Reading time: 6 min

Unite organiser and Ogreave Truth and Justice Campaign chair Joe Rollin tells us all you need to know about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the explainer below.

What’s it all about? 

The Police, Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill passed its second reading in the House of Commons on 16th March 2021. This Bill will grant the police new powers to clamp down on protests they deem “disruptive”. It introduces new powers for policing demonstrations and makes huge changes to public order legislation to allow police to criminalise anyone using civil disobedience and direct action tactics as well as granting increased penalties and sentencing powers. This comes on top of the recent Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Spycops) Bill, which has now gone for Royal Ascent and while the Undercover Policing Inquiry is still going on. This government is determined to hammer us.

What are they worried about?

The Home Secretary and the Tory Government say they need these new powers to help stop “disruptive” protest (But that’s kind of the point in protest right?) but the reality is the Police already have far reaching powers to clamp down on all forms of protest or Industrial action. Anyone involved in protests in the UK knows the Police use a variety of tactics to scare and intimidate people into not protesting such as: (Just to illustrate my point – this list is by no means exhaustive!)

  • Conditions on Protest

Public Order Act 1986 ss 12-14 the police can impose conditions which restrict the place, duration, and the number of people allowed on a static demo, or any reasonable conditions on a procession.

  • Stop and Search

Criminal Justice Act 1994 s 60 is the most common tactic used by Police these days Police will use this to intimidate protesters and demand information, Protesters often give over information and have photos taken even though the Police know they are bending the laws

  • Obstruction of the Highway

Highways Act 1980 s137 this power is often used to remove demonstrators who are standing outside buildings, sitting down blockading entrances or roads and in many public order situations.

40 Years of Anti-Union Legislation mainly falls under 3 categories …

  1. Reducing the scope of issues over which industrial action can be taken, and the scope of permitted action;
  2. Where action is permitted, making it as difficult as possible for that action to be legitimately taken;
  3. Increasing the liability of trade unions and the ability for legal action to be taken against trade unions as the result of industrial action.

How much more Power do they want?

The ‘Police Crackdown Bill’, will:

  • Further extend already draconian police powers, giving them new powers against static protests, granting the ability to impose allocated times and where they can be held, and enforce maximum noise limits (amongst other measures);
  • Prevent protests outside Parliament;
  • Expand powers to shut down peaceful demonstrations;
  • Introduce new offences for protesters, including on the basis of causing “serious annoyance”;
  • Increase penalties and lower the thresholds for breaching police conditions on protests; 

Now The Clapping has stopped …

As we move slowly out of lockdown all the rhetoric of supporting key workers seems like a distant memory. We can already see that the government and bosses intend to make us pay for the crisis. The derisory 1% pay offer to NHS Staff or the almost daily attacks of “Fire-Re-Hire” in the Private Sector make it clear that there is no intention of those with the broadest shoulders carrying the can for the looming economic crisis. New Policing powers will be very handy for the Government if they need to stifle any form of fightback in the streets or in our workplaces.

The Bill is delayed… time to build the fight back 

The Bill passed its second reading on 16th March with an exclusively Tory vote of 359 votes for and a cross party vote of 263 against, with Labour MPs being whipped to vote against it. For unknown reasons the committee stage has been delayed until later in the year. We must use this time to build a movement to push back against this, already in towns and cities across the UK people are starting to form coalitions and organise protests against this pernicious legislation. The Orgreave Campaign joins the call for this legislation to be scrapped.

What can you do now?

Write to Your MP ask them what they are doing to oppose the Bill. You can look up your MP and their contact details here.

Hashtags to use on Social Media:

#RejectTheBill #KilltheBill #FreedomToProtest #Protest4Protest #DemocracyIsDying #AmendTheBill #PoliceCrackdownBill #NoJusticeNoPeace #PeacefulProtest #DemocracyUnderThreat #FreedomOfSpeech #PeoplePower #WeWillNotBeSilenced

By Joe Rollin, Unite organiser and Orgreave Truth and Justice Campaign chair

Related Articles