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THOUSANDS are expected to turn out across the country today against the Tories’ “anti-democratic” bid to crack down on protests ahead of a crucial vote in the Lords.
Opposition to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has mobilised a wide range of social, racial and environmental justice groups as well as Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GTR) communities.
Members of these groups will join marches today in London, Bristol, Coventry, Newcastle, Liverpool, Sheffield, Plymouth and more to demand peers reject the new laws.
Monday’s vote in the Lords is one of the final stages before the Bill becomes law.
Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti, who is due to speak at the London demo, warned the anti-protest measures “represent the greatest attack upon peaceful dissent in my adult life.
“This government once positively encouraged pro-Brexit demonstrations and ‘statue defenders,’ and constantly pontificates about free speech.
“Freedom of expression is a two-way street and the ultimate cancel culture comes not with a tweet, but a police baton or prison sentence for non-violent protest.”
If the anti-protest provisions in the legislation are passed, demonstrations outside the House of Commons will be made unlawful.
The legislation also proposes handing police more powers to massively restrict demos, while protesters who cause “serious annoyance” could face prison sentences of up to 10 years.
Marvina Newton of Black Lives Matter Leeds and United for Black Lives said: “Protest has done so much for people who look like me.
“If it wasn’t for protesters such as [Bristol bus boycott organiser] Paul Stephenson, who was once considered disruptive, black people in this country wouldn’t be able to ride on a bus in some cities or even buy a drink in a bar.”
GTR communities have also warned that measures to criminalise trespass will effectively outlaw their way of life.
Community member Anne Maries said: “Police and politicians know that roadside camps exist because authorised camps have not been provided.
“This is a cruel move to criminalise a nomadic culture and forcibly assimilate our children.”
The march also seeks to highlight the potential impact of the Bill on minority communities, including plans to expand stop and search powers.
The London rally is expected to hear from former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and ex-shadow chancellor John McDonnell.
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