After the events over the weekend in Bristol, which effectively degenerated into a riot with several police officers injured, it’s worth considering the issues raised. The demonstrations under the banner “Kill the Bill” (a very provocative phrase as Bill is often used as a name for the police), were aimed at stopping the passage of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill through Parliament. This is a long and complex piece of legislation but you can read a summary of it by the BBC here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-56400751
Apart from the fact that the Bristol demonstrations were a clear breach of the Covid regulations re public gatherings, this legislation to tighten up the rules around public demonstrations was surely long overdue. In fact after the campaigns by Extinction Rebellion which closed bridges across the Thames in London in 2018, I wrote to Cressida Dick (head of the Metropolitan Police) on the issue. This is some of what I said: “These [demonstrations] have caused very considerable disruption to traffic which the police have done nothing about apparently. Obstructing the public highway is an offence, as presumably you are well aware, so why are the police not intervening to stop these demonstrations?”
I got a long and complex reply effectively saying the current state of the law made it difficult to halt these events. The new legislation is clearly aimed at giving the police clearer powers which is surely to be welcomed.
I don’t think anyone objects to peaceful demonstrations that enable protestors to bring issues to the attention of the public. But when they obstruct traffic, close roads, or otherwise harass people going about their normal business then it is time to step in to stop them.
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