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Sunday, January 16, 2022

Protests against authoritarian agenda

It is an irony that will undoubtedly not have been lost onany of the thousands of protestors attending rallies yesterday, that if the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill they were opposing becomes law, then they could well have been arrested for taking to the streets and expressing an opinion. The stakes really are as high as that, as Boris Johnson's government subverts the demcratic process in it's own interests, an action that has been central to the playbook of many dictators down the ages.

As the Guardian reports, sections of this bill have been condemned by human rights activists as an attack on the right to protest. The House of Lords will be considering it on Monday, hence the actions of “kill the bill” protesters rallying in London on yesterday, while demonstrations also took place in cities including Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Plymouth:

In the capital, demonstrators marched from Holborn to Parliament Square carrying signs reading “defend the right to protest”, while one protester carried a coffin with the words “UK democracy – murdered by the Tories” printed on its side. Many also carried Extinction Rebellion flags.

Terry Matthews, 69, from south London, told PA Media: “I think we’re facing a really vitriolic attack on our rights to protest and our freedoms to show our dissatisfaction with the status of the government and the country. And it’s a really dangerous step to try to take.”

Addressing the crowd in Parliament Square, the Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti said the bill’s anti-protest provisions “represent the greatest attack on peaceful dissent in living memory”. “This rightwing, authoritarian government used to encourage pro-Brexit demos and statue defenders when it suited them,” she said.

Chakrabarti accused the government of hypocrisy, saying it “bangs on about free speech and whinges about cancel culture” and other countries “where fundamental rights are under attack” while clamping down on rights in the UK. “Free speech is a two-way street. And you know what? The ultimate cancel culture, it doesn’t come with a tweet – it comes with a police baton and a prison sentence for nonviolent dissent,” she said.

The bill’s anti-protest measures grant police the power to ban marches and demonstrations that they consider to be “seriously disruptive”, including those deemed too noisy. Gypsy, Roma and traveller communities would effectively be criminalised by measures against residing on land without authorisation, while police would also be granted expanded stop and search powers and sentences of up to 10 years could be handed down for damage to memorials or statues.

Up until now, it has been the Liberal Democrats who have been leading the charge against this bill in the Lords. They have now been joined by Labour peers. Let's hope the opposition can do something to avert this major attack on liberty and democracy.
What worries me is that 'Operation Red Meat' is not only been thought out to protect Johnson but also distract from the Police Bill and other contentious policies.
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