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‘We’ll unite to kill Tory police bill,’ vow activists from across movements

Issue No. 2747

Protesting over police violence and the bill in central London last Sunday

Protesting over police violence and the bill in central London last Sunday (Pic: Guy Smallman)


A call to unite and resist the Tories’ protest-smashing Police Bill went out from an online meeting on Thursday night.

MPs backed the bill on its second reading by 359 to 263 votes on Tuesday. The vote came amid the upsurge against the sexist system after Sarah Everard's murder and the police violence at a vigil on Clapham Common last week.

Iris, who organised a vigil for Sarah Everard in Manchester, said the “police represent a dangerous and powerful threat” to women. “It has not even been a year since the large Black Lives Matter movement which also called for the defunding and changing of our police force,” she said. “And nothing has changed.

She said “more than ever we need to come together to fight this bill” and to “make sure our right to protest is not taken away before our eyes”.

Over 1,000 people watched the meeting, which brought together anti-racists, climate activists, trade unionists, left wing Labour MPs, campaigning lawyers and others from the movements. It was initiated by Karen Reissmann, a nurse who faces a £10,000 fine for organising a protest over pay in Manchester last month.

She slammed the “draconian powers” in the bill, saying, “I called the meeting because we need a big response because we cannot let this go unchallenged.

“There is something disgraceful about the way the cops are increasingly behaving and the way the government are using restrictive legislation to attack what we’re allowed to do.”

The Tories would use the law to target black people and Muslims—and movements that challenge oppression.

How can we end this sexist system?
How can we end this sexist system?
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Bianca Ali is from Black Lives Matter Cardiff and Vale and has been part of the campaign to get justice for Mohamud Hassan.

She said that after protests the police stood accused of “running a campaign of revenge”.

Bianca added that “we have stood strong and not been intimidated” saying the bill showed our rulers fear the power of protest.

The bill would create a pernicious trespass offence, which will be used to jail Gypsy, Roma and Traveller groups. Aibiline McShane said, “There are no local authority sites up and down the country with room for people—where are we supposed to go?

“I’m fighting to keep my home, I’m fighting so there is somewhere for us to go.”

Response 

Metropolitan police commissioner Cressida Dick began lobbying for greater powers in response to Extinction Rebellion (XR) action. And the Tories and cops will seek to use the new bill to clamp down on protests at the Cop26 talks in Glasgow.

Suzanne Jeffery from the Campaign Against Climate Change said, “Peaceful protest has always been part of our movement.

“It matters because it mobilises, inspires and shines a light on injustice. It has been crucial in the climate movement—Extinction Rebellion and the climate strikes were among those who raised the urgency of action.

“There is no protest more disruptive than the damage caused by the ‘business as usual’ approach of the present system and the climate crisis.”

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour MP for Streatham in south London, called out the Tory hypocrisy over free speech. “It’s about silencing everybody else,” she said. “All these things have been designed to curtail our civil liberties.

“We’ve had an Overseas Operations bill, the Spy Cops bill and now we have the Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill.”

She said it was “all about consolidating more power for the government”.

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer had wanted the party’s MPs to abstain on the vote, but he was forced to oppose it. But the Labour leadership still supports some parts of the bill, such as tougher sentencing.

Other speakers included Labour MP Apsana Begum, anti-spycop activist Dave Smith, Lindsey German from the Stop The War Coalition, Tasha from All Black Lives, Michael Mansfield QC and Grace Blakeley.

It’s vital that we oppose the whole of the Police Bill—and the power to stop it lies on the streets. Weyman Bennett, co-convenor of Stand Up To Racism, said the bill was “307 pages of filth”. “There’s nothing we should keep,” he said. “No part of it. It will mean an effective anti-fascist and anti-racist movement will be criminalised.

“The government wants to go back to the 1860s, to take away our rights.

“We have to fight.”

A clear message from the meeting was to keep protesting and to be ready to defy the bill if it is passed.

Watch the whole meeting here

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Thu 18 Mar 2021, 19:47 GMT
Issue No. 2747
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