Socialist Worker

Thousands take to streets against Tory police bill

by Isabel Ringrose and Sam Ord
Issue No. 2751

Rage at the Tories and the police bill on the streets of London

Rage at the Tories and the police bill on the streets of London (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Over 1,000 people took to the streets of London on Saturday as part of the second Kill The Bill day of action.

Protesters marched from Wellington Arch to Parliament Square to demand the Tories scrap the new police bill. It will grant the police more repressive powers, restrict the right to protest and clamp down on Gypsies, Roma and Travellers.

School students Sam and Charlotte said they joined the protest “because if we don't come out now, we might never be able to again”. "I've never been on a protest before,” Sam told Socialist Worker.

“But now I'm out because they're limiting our human rights.”

Marchers linked the fight against the police bill to fights against racism, chanting, “All your racist, sexist cops we don't need them.”

Another protester told Socialist Worker, “We're here to protect the right to protest.

“This is the first sign of the state taking our power away—if we can't protest they'll keep going until there's no more to take.”

Protesters were angry that the new law will provide longer prison sentences for tearing statues down than for violence against women.

“It's outrageous,” one told Socialist Worker. “They pretend to protect women, yet the process for reporting assault is so shaming for women.”

Determined to beat the bill

Determined to beat the bill (Pic: Guy Smallman)


The protest coincided with Prince Philip's funeral

Many protesters said they wouldn't take the official minute’s silence for the dead racist. “He's a colonialist, that's literally what he represented,” one protester told Socialist Worker. “I don't know why so many are showing him respect.”

Rather than take a mournful minute's silence at 3pm like the establishment wanted, protesters held a ten minute silence for victims of police brutality.

Sam added that he doesn't "really care that Philip is dead”. “They live off our money,” he said.

The bill comes after Tory home secretary Priti Patel looked for ways to crack down on protest in the wake of Extinction Rebellion’s (XR) rebellions in London.

Josh from XR said, "The policing bill is an attack on direct action, especially the tactics used by XR.

“While there is a climate crisis, we need to mobilise quickly and can't afford to be stopped by the bill.”

It's vital the street movement stays radical and united in the fight against the Tory bill. Fran, who is part of the NEU education union, said, "Does anyone think we can trust the government after the last year?

“They handed millions of pounds worth of contracts over to their mates.

“What they're trying to do is eliminate opposition and the trade unions need to be fighting this tooth and nail.”

Only a huge, militant push from below, including from the trade union movement, will kill the bill.


Around 200 people protested in Oxford

Around 200 people protested in Oxford (Pic: Alistair Farrow)


Dozens of demonstrations across Britain

Over 35 Kill The Bill protests took place across Britain on Saturday.

Up to 1,000 people marched through Bristol's streets chanting, “Tory scum!” 

Protester Joe told Socialist Worker, “There's just as many police as protesters, it shows what their real role in society is—restricting working class organisation.”

On the previous eight Kill the Bill protests in Bristol, 62 people were injured by the police according to a report by Bristol Defendant Solidarity. 

Up to 600 people joined the protest in Sheffield. Protesters marched to the police station and blocked major junctions. 

Sheffield student Alex told Socialist Worker, “Women were chanting ‘Whose streets? Our streets.’ It was great to see, especially after the murder of Sarah Everard.”

“This bill is a critical attack on free speech and the right to protest. We have all united as protest is the lifeblood of democracy.”

“The protests should grow. If you care for free speech and democracy we must stand against the authoritarian measures that make achieving it impossible.”

In Newcastle, 200 people rallied at Grey’s Monument, then marched up the main shopping street.

Nuisance

The demonstration, organised by Resist NCL, called for a “mass public nuisance,” with “drums, whistles, megaphones, pots, pans and anything else you can make noise with.” 

It was in reaction to measures in the bill that criminalise protests for causing a “nuisance.” The protest included drummers from Extinction Rebellion and a loud band.

Protester Katie told Socialist Worker, “With everything happening it feels like life is about to get worse and that the government is trying to pre-empt serious unrest with this bill.

“It’s good that we're still having protests. We have to keep going. 

Newcastle

Newcastle (Pic: Socialist Worker)


"There have been so many things in the news that make you angry, and we can't just forget about them.”

She added, “The focus in the news on prince Philip just made me furious—how many other people have died?

“It's the sign of an authoritarian state that they put some people on a pedestal because they're supposed to be more important.”

At the end of the rally, activist, Raj told protesters, “We've got a day of action on 1 May. We've got to make this bigger and bigger—we can't lose momentum now.”

Around 150 joined the protest in Manchester. The crowd was addressed by a wide range of speakers such as trade unionists and environmental and anti-racist groups.

Protester Abbie told Socialist Worker, “The protest was young and angry. We won't stop protesting until we can guarantee all attacks on the freedom to protest will stop.”

Solidarity

In Glasgow, although Scotland is not directly affected by the bill, 100 protesters showed their solidarity.

Protester Ross told Socialist Worker, “We had a united movement in full effect, with speakers from Extinction Rebellion, Stand Up To Racism and various trade unions.”

Speakers from the pro-independence group, All Under One Banner said, “We need to set a precedent that the racist British state must be broken if the bill is passed.”

Ross added, “No one in Scotland wants to see us mudslide into an authoritarian state.”

In Dorchester over 100 marched through the town centre carrying Black Lives Matter placards. They were joined by Gypsy, Roma and Traveller organisation, Kushti Bok.

Kushti Bok member Rosina told Socialist Worker, “I found it important to join the protest as it discriminates against Roma, Gypsy and Travellers and could make families homeless."

Protester Phil added, “The protest was very upbeat. It was a great turnout for such a small town.”

“Trade unionists joined with their banners, they were very well received.”

In Brighton up to 500 filled The Level then marched and blocked roads. 

The protests also attracted Unison and UCU union activists.

Manchester

Manchester (Pic: Socialist Worker)

A crowd of 50 assembled in Luton.

The demonstration was ended by the police who threatened protesters with arrest if they didn't disperse after a set time.

Around 150 protested in Birmingham, and 100 in Bournemouth.

At its height, 120 people joined in Coventry. They took the knee in solidarity with victims of police brutality.

“Around 100 of us mobilised in York today,” protester Julie, told Socialist Worker, “The protest was themed around the environment with speeches from Extinction Rebellion, Stop HS2 and anti-fracking campaigns.”

Julie added, “There's a call for the protests to return on International Workers' Day—1 May.”

There were about 150 on the Plymouth demonstration.

Aberystwyth

In Wales dozens mobilised in Cardiff, 100 in Haverfordwest and 200 marched in Aberystwyth.

Nearly 100 people protested in Portsmouth. Protesters said they detested Keir Starmer's weak opposition to the Tories.

One placard read, “This is what democracy looks like.”

Many other towns and cities such as Southampton, Taunton, Bath and Ipswich also hosted lively demonstrations.

Today's Kill the Bill protests which swept across Britain showed real rage and opposition to the Tories.

The united movement must continue to mobilise and build protests. Mow 1 May needs to see bigger protests and more organised workers' involvement.

Protests on Sunday include Leeds, Hyde Park at 2pm and Tooting, Bickley Street, SW17 9NG at 1pm. Thanks to everyone who sent reports and pictures.

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