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CAMPAIGNERS vowed to continue resisting the Tories’ draconian policing Bill today after MPs voted to reinstate restrictions on demonstrations, including noise limits.
Using its Commons majority late on Monday, the government succeeded in overturning a series of amendments that peers had passed that softened the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill’s attack on protest rights.
Proposals to allow police to shut down protests deemed too noisy were thrown out by the Lords last month but are now back in the legislation after MPs voted 288 to 238 in favour of the restriction. MPs also backed the reinstatement of a ban on protests outside Parliament by 298 votes to 236.
Ahead of the vote, Home Secretary Priti Patel wrote to all 650 MPs seeking to justify her anti-protest proposals.
A handful of Conservative MPs, however, voiced concerns about the extent of the powers to restrict protests, saying that they went too far. But in the end, only one Tory MP — former minister Stephen Baker — rebelled over the noise restriction proposals.
Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle branded the Tories “snowflakes” for seeking to crack down on protest movements that are critical of the government.
“They can’t cope with a bit of robust debate,” he told MPs. They cry into their evening port when people say things they don’t like or that are too noisy.
“Rather than viscerally argue back, they shut them down and make them illegal.”
The Bill will now return to the Lords, where peers could vote to reject the MPs’ changes.
Delia Mattis of the Black Lives Matter Coalition, part of the Kill the Bill Coalition, said: “Nobody expected this right-wing government to suddenly have a change of heart and agree to our human right to protest.
“Let’s hope the Lords continues to listen to the will of the people and doesn’t back down … but one thing is for sure: we are going nowhere.”
Following the vote, Kevin Blowe of police monitoring group Netpol said that it looked increasingly likely that the Bill would introduce a number of new ill-defined, inconsistent and probably unworkable police powers.
But he added: “Together, we have the ability to make the leadership of British policing think twice about using the new powers they lobbied so hard for.”
Describing the legislation as the “biggest threat to protest rights in a generation,” Tom Barns of War on Want urged parliamentarians to “continue to oppose these draconian and authoritarian measures as the Bill passes through the final stages in both houses.”
But feminist group Sisters Uncut argued that an “extra-parliamentary” strategy was the only way to defeat the Bill.
“We will continue to mobilise, organise and build power within our communities until mass resistance renders it ungovernable,” a spokesperson said.
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