Image Credit: Luke Snell
Earlier today, 15 March, a protest was held in St Charlotte’s square in York city centre against the new Policing Bill that has been causing controversy in the media. Alongside the protest held in York, a larger protest is currently also occurring outside Westminster, London, in response to the Bill as well as the violence caused at the Sarah Everard vigil on Saturday night.
The Policing Bill, which is being dubbed the ‘anti-protest’ bill, is being debated by MP’s this week. It is a major piece of legislation that will allow police more control over protests. Police will now be able to impose start and finish times and set noise limits. These restrictions will also be able to be applied to a single person protest as well as a group.
It will also be a crime not to follow restrictions that protestors “ought to have known about” and an extra offense of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance”
Nouse estimates that today’s protest involved roughly 150-200 participants and, at the time Nouse was present, there was no obvious police presence. There were also speakers from the York Trade Unions and leaflets were handed out by the Socialist Party. The protestors voiced their concerns about the UK becoming a police state and defended their right to protest. They also protested violence against women and the policing at Clapham Common.
The protesters repeatedly chanted “stop the bill” and also held a one-minute silence. It is reported that at around 7pm the protesters began to disperse, with the protest beginning at around 5pm.
The Socialist Party’s leaflet stated that “this ban on the vigil and the policing at Clapham Common are an attack on the democratic rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. They show that these rights are not permanent but must be defended at all times. Let’s organise!”
The Bill has come after police were frustrated about their inability to control Extinction Rebellion demonstrations in 2019, but it has come after the vigil for Sarah Everard ended with anger between protesters and police. The vigil in Clapham ended in several arrests and the vigil in York was cancelled after the police did not communicate a Covid safe way to conduct the vigil.