Socialist Worker

Don’t let Tory intimidation take away right to protest

by Isabel Ringrose
Issue No. 2745

The state could do very little about the hundreds of thousands that took to the streets to say Black Lives Matter last year

The state could do very little about the hundreds of thousands that took to the streets to say Black Lives Matter last year (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The right to protest is under severe attack as the Tories ramp up the fining of protesters and look set to keep restrictions in place for months.

The Tories have been plotting to restrict the right to protest since a ban was brought in for Tier 4 areas under their failed tier system.

And they extended it across England when new Covid-19 legislation was brought in for the latest lockdown.

Last Sunday Manchester police fined mental health nurse Karen Reissmann £10,000.

Karen had been part of ­organising a small, socially distanced protest against the pitiful 1 percent pay rise for NHS workers.

Cops said the gathering in the city centre was illegal under coronavirus restrictions.

Yet all the demonstrators were wearing masks, made sure to stand at a distance from each other and dispersed when ordered to by police.

Warning

Following a police warning of possible arrests Karen agreed to end the protest.

Nurse Karen Reissmann fined £10,000 under Tory laws for protesting over pay insult
Nurse Karen Reissmann fined £10,000 under Tory laws for protesting over pay insult
  Read More

But the cops issued the fine anyway, saying they had been met with “a degree of non-compliance”.

The crackdown has seen arrests, fines and threats against protests and strikes around the country.

Not all protests are being shut down and the arbitrary punishments are causing further anger.

This attack on a health worker shows that the state is stepping up attacks on resistance as a whole.

Fundraising for Karen’s fine has already exceeded its target but organisers should not have to pay or be subject to intimidation.

The Tories and the right previously have hidden behind statements that they wanted people to stay at home to protect the NHS.

But when those NHS workers hold protests they are the ones being targeted.

The Tories have done much more to risk our lives than safe, socially distanced protests have.

They sent ten million children and workers back into English schools this week.

The government’s roadmap to reopening states that outdoor social contact rules will be lifted on 17 May, but gatherings of over 30 will remain illegal, until no earlier than 21 June.

This means a ban on protests is expected until the summer.

Outdoor

Yet the guidance also says that as of May 1,000 people will be allowed to gather in indoor venues and 4,000 in outdoor ones.

And in the largest outdoor venues up to 10,000 people will be able to gather. So the government is not looking to keep virus transmission down but to restrict the right to resist its policies.

The right to protest also came under attack last summer when the Black Lives Matter demonstrations spread. But the sheer number of anti-racists that took to the streets meant the state could do little.

The most extensive protests possible must continue for the international day of action against racism on 20 March.

Physical protests, observing all the necessary safety measures, must be as big as possible to fight racism and the Tories’ restrictions.


Cops set for more power

Tory home secretary Priti Patel wants to give the police more powers to control protests—even after Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.

Patel wrote to the head of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire and Rescue Services.

She said she wanted information about how the Home Office could ensure that the police had powers to make sure that protests do not have an impact on “the rights of others to go about their daily business”.

“I would like to know what steps the government could take to ensure the police have the right powers and capabilities to respond to protests,” it said.

The letter, written last September, also includes Patel describing the Black Lives Matter protests as “dreadful” and “illegal”. This shows she is looking to prevent future mass street movements.

Patel’s letter has led to a review by the inspectorate of how the police can effectively manage protests. This could bring about new laws to force further restrictions on protests, strikes and resistance.


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