'Kill the bill': Londoners protest policing of Everard vigil

'Kill the bill': Londoners protest policing of Everard vigil”

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Parliament Square on Tuesday evening to demonstrate against the Government's Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Violent scenes from a vigil for Sarah Everard in South London on Saturday night, in which "heavy handed" police were seen forcibly restraining women, have drawn fresh attention to the role of police in protesting.

A proposed Police and Crime Bill - which would give new powers to curb protests - is being criticised by MPs in Greater Manchester.

It is now only on its second reading in the House of Commons, meaning that it must yet pass the Lords; in which serious amendments could be proposed.

Alongside these protests, the bill has been met with warnings from over 150 organisations, including charities and faith communities, while the Labour party promised to oppose the bill, proceeding to criticise officers' handling of Saturday's vigils, The Guardian reported.

MPs voted 359-263 in favour of the legislation.

"The Bill therefore risks exacerbating the racial and gendered disparities in the criminal justice system by increasing police powers and sentencing whilst reducing accountability", it read.

Before the vote, Conservative MP Huw Merriman said some MPs were criticising the police for using powers given to them in the Coronavirus Act - powers which many parliamentarians voted for.

Maddy, a student on the protest, told Socialist Worker, "They police our protests without respect already, I can't imagine what it will be like after this bill".

He called on Patel to ensure "the legislation we are about to pass protects that right of peaceful protest".

More news: India reports over 25k nCoV cases in 24 hrs

His comments echoed those of Conservative backbench colleague Steve Baker, who said earlier this week that while he supports the bill in principle but that "when it gets to committee and report stage all bets are off when it comes to amendments".

"This will be the biggest widening of police powers to impose restrictions on public protest that we've seen in our lifetimes", Chris Daw QC, a leading barrister and author, told The Big Issue.

The legislation debated today, in the wake of the Tory manifesto pledge to "tackle unauthorised traveller camps", would create an offence of "residing on land without consent in or with a vehicle" and give the police seizure and forfeiture powers.

This Bill also increases the jail time for the destruction of statues from 3 months to 10 years depending on their monetary and sentimental value.

"I don't think there are any circumstances, even during Covid, where you can stifle that right to be heard."Surl said a provision should have been made in lockdown laws to allow the public to express themselves "when people feel the pressure cooker is absolutely about to explode".

"Whatever task-force or meetings or new strategies do that will be hugely eroded if, for instance, women lose confidence in the police because of the policing of protests".

I am listening to women and girls up and down the country. Much emphasis is being placed on police discretion to navigate these matters.

It's vital to keep protesting and not allow our rights to be stolen.

"The stay-at-home order will lift on March 29, which means it is no longer illegal to leave your home save for the exemptions which we are all aware of", the Prime Minister's official spokesman said.

"Ministers are fooling no one when their default response is to talk about tougher sentences and more police".

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