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THE Tory Policing Bill is part of a wider threat to the public’s ability to hold the government to account, the head of a human rights group warned in Brighton today.
Addressing The World Transformed festival, Liberty interim director Gracie Bradley said that the “horrendous” legislation was part of a broader picture, “whether that’s the government wanting to rip up the Human Rights Act … or bringing voter ID so we’re not heard at the ballot box.”
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, now being debated in the House of Lords, seeks to hand officers sweeping powers to crack down on protest.
It also contains provisions that campaigners warn will destroy Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities’ way of life by criminalising trespass.
While Liberty has been campaigning against the Bill, Ms Bradley admitted that the chances of it being defeated were now slim.
“We’re hoping to mobilise people in the House of Lords to basically rein in the worst excesses of the Bill, but as I say that’s damage limitation,” she said.
“I think it’s really important for us to think about what infrastructure we will need when the Bill becomes law, because it’s not going to stop people from protesting.
“That’s a fundamental freedom — it’s not a gift from the state. What it is going to do is create a wave of confrontation between police and protesters, because it lowers the threshold of which police can intervene and raises the penalties for doing something the state says we shouldn’t do.
“We need to think creatively about how to resource the communities that are the sharpest end of the provisions in the Bill.”
Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said the legislation, alongside other Bills and laws pushed through regarding crimes committed by soldiers, police spying, free speech and voting, was part of an “authoritarian drive” by the Tory government.
In light of ministers’ poor handling of the pandemic, the Streatham MP said it was “no wonder that the government doesn’t want accountability.
“So this government is frightened by the consequences of its own inaction. It’s frightened of popular protest and popular resistance and so far it’s had an easy ride from the opposition, let’s be fair.”
She warned that abuses will begin to take place “openly, repeatedly and frequently” if the raft of laws is not challenged.
Ms Ribeiro-Addy and Ms Bradley spoke on a panel alongside GRT activist and Traveller Pride member Lois Jones and Black Protest Legal Support UK’s Zehrar Hassan.
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