Disgusting and draconian, even dictatorial, are UK government plans to restrict people’s right to take part in peaceful protest.
Its Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would seriously restrict individuals’ right to protest. Protesting is a basic human right and enables people to have their voices heard.
As a veteran of late 1960s protests against apartheid while a Young Liberal and a member of the then National Council for Civil Liberties, now known as Liberty, I am appalled by the proposed new police powers and the audacity of the Johnson government.
But, I am proud to be a member of the Liberal Democrats whose Spring Conference made a bold decision to oppose the Bill and its restrictions. I am also pleased to say that my vote was one the vast majority against the Bill, because I was there. Not that, in the Covid times, anyone was really ‘there’. The conference was held online, enabling me to take a full part without leaving my living room.
Protest clampdown an attack on democracy
This attempt to drive a bulldozer through fundamental rights is, in reality, an attack on the democracy that we hold dear.
Proposing the emergency resolution, home affairs spokesman Alastair Carmichael (MP for Orkney and Shetlands) said: “The Home Secretary’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill would seriously restrict individuals’ right to protest. Protesting is a basic human right and enables people to have their voices heard.
“The heavy-handed suppression of the peaceful vigil for Sarah Everard last weekend was disturbing and unnecessary. The Conservatives want to usher in a Bill that would lead to more scenes of peaceful protesters being needlessly arrested.
“We saw the importance of the right to protest reaffirmed this last year by the vital Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. The protests have rightly focused attention on our society’s widespread racial inequality.
“Yet (Home Secretary) Priti Patel described the non-violent, democratic BLM protests as “utterly disgraceful”, “dreadful” and “illegal”. It has now emerged that the Home Secretary also encouraged Police Chiefs to prevent vigils in Sarah Everard’s name.
Contempt for basic human rights
“The Home Secretary’s contempt for basic human rights is deeply troubling. The Conservatives’ Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is just the latest in a long line of destructive attacks on the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act.
“We demand the Government drop the Bill and uphold the right to peaceful protest,” he said.
I am delighted that, in the great Liberal tradition, today the Liberal Democrats are continuing to defend human rights, as the backbone of democracy.