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TENS of thousands of took to Britain’s streets at the weekend as protests erupted against draconian new laws which will give police powers to “shut down dissent.”
Campaigners in London, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield, Bristol and scores of smaller towns mobilised in opposition to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill on May Day.
The legislation has faced a backlash as critics say it will allow police in England and Wales to shut down non-violent protests which are deemed “overly noisy or disruptive” or “cause inconvenience or nuisance to members of the public.”
Anyone taking part in actions which police declare “illegal” under the legislation could face fines and imprisonment.
It will also increase police powers to arrest and detain those in travelling communities.
The May Day demonstration saw the biggest protests so far — recent weeks have seen marches in most major towns and cities, and in many smaller communities.
Dozens of arrests were made, including in London, Newcastle and Bristol.
In London, thousands rallied in Trafalgar Square and marched towards the Home Office.
Anti-domestic violence charity Sisters Uncut led the protest, with support from Extinction Rebellion (XR) and Black Lives Matter.
A member of Sisters Uncut at the London protest said: “The police powers Bill should be scrapped entirely. It is authoritarian in tone and in nature, and will lead to more abuse of police powers. It will take a mass movement to force it to be thrown out of Parliament.
“If this police powers Bill becomes law, we will see even more police violence — against people who speak up against injustice, and specifically against black, Muslim and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.”
In Newcastle 12 demonstrators were arrested after officers blocked the route to a police station.
One protester said in response to the arrests: “The only violence that has come here today was from the police.
“We’re defending our right to protest, whether it’s for workers’ rights, migrant rights, against police brutality, against racism, and it’s really important that we all come together on this because it affects everyone.
And in Sheffield, demonstrators took the knee and gave the Black Power salute in a park close to the city centre, before marching towards City Hall.
They waved placards declaring “Kill the Bill,” “No Protest – No Democracy,” and “Priti Bloody Sick of the Government” — a reference to Home Secretary Priti Patel, who is pushing the legislation through Parliament.
Protesters in Manchester occupied Portland Street in the city centre.
Sara Parkes, a teacher who attended the London protest, said: “The resistance that’s building against this Bill is so inspiring, and there are people who are coming together to learn more about how it impacts all of us in different ways.
“As a teacher, my concern is the government proposals around ‘secure schools,’ which are effectively youth prisons. We can’t let this pass into law.”
The Trafalgar Square rally included speakers from Sisters Uncut, youth empowerment organisation the 4FRONT Project, anti-school exclusions campaign group No More Exclusions, Gypsy, Roma and Traveller socialists, Women of Colour and Sex Worker Advocacy and Resistance Movement (Swarm).
In Margate in Kent “Kill the Bill” protesters joined campaigners occupying land earmarked for a community garden, but which developers plan to use for flats and commercial buildings.
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