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THE POLICING BILL risks “disempowering everyone in Britain,” Jeremy Corbyn told crowds in London at the weekend as thousands marched against the new laws.
Dozens of Kill the Bill demos were held across the country on Saturday ahead of a crucial vote in the Lords today on the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill.
Addressing crowds in Parliament Square, the former Labour leader said that plans to restrict the right to protest would lead to every demonstration becoming a “conflict about having the protest rather than what the protest is about.
“This effectively disempowers us all, puts us all on the back foot … so we end up endlessly defending things instead of demanding things.”
He added: “This sense of disempowerment is designed to have a depressive effect, particularly on young people.”
If passed in its current form, the Bill would give police sweeping powers to impose time and noise limits on protests, as well as creating a new offence for causing “serious annoyance” punishable by up to 10 years in jail.
Civil liberties and racial justice groups have also warned against plans to expand police stop-and-search powers, as well as measures against Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
In Edinburgh, Extinction Rebellion activists dressed in black walked from Holyrood to the British government offices at Queen Elizabeth House to demand a stop to the “strangulation of democratic protest.”
Thousands turned out in cities across northern England. In Manchester, trade union Unite activist Edda told protesters in St Peter’s Square: “The Policing and Borders Bills are part and parcel of the massive swathe of authoritarian legislation that this government is attempting to push through.”
Organisers of the Leeds protest said: “Protest is an important part of a functioning democracy, and without it we would not have things like workers’ rights, women being allowed to vote or anti-discrimination laws.”
In Newcastle, demonstrators gathered at the city’s Grey’s Monument. Tony Dowling, chairman of People’s Assembly North East, said: “The right to equal pay, for women’s rights and the eight-hour day were all won through protest.
“The new crime Bill is a threat to all campaign groups, trade unions and others seeking to exercise their democratic right to legitimate protest.”
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