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PROPOSALS at Westminster to strengthen powers to crack down on environmental and climate protests were condemned by campaigners today.
Home Office Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford pushed for a series of changes to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill after green groups including Insulate Britain and Extinction Rebellion (XR) staged protests targeting major roads in recent months.
Claiming that climate activists had “overstepped the line,” the Tory peer said that there should be tougher sentences for blocking motorways and roads and that police officers should be allowed to stop and search anyone at a protest “without suspicion” for “locking-on.”
Activists with a history of causing serious disruption could also face being banned by the courts from attending certain protests.
Opposition peers strongly criticised the proposals and the fact that they were introduced after the Bill had gone through the Commons.
Labour former shadow attorney general Baroness Chakrabarti, who was previously director of human rights group Liberty, said: “This suite looks to me, smells to me, tastes to me a lot like anti-terror legislation of the kind that I have always opposed as being disproportionate and counterproductive.”
Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb added: “This is nothing more than a naked attack against civil liberties and a crackdown on protest and we must oppose it for both what it is and how it’s been done.”
The provisions come on top of other contentious curbs on demonstrations proposed in the legislation, including powers to impose conditions on protests judged to be too noisy.
Baroness Williams said that she was “disappointed” by the objections, while warning that peers “should be in no doubt” that the proposals would be brought back at the report stage.
“This suite of new measures is necessary to protect the public from the unacceptable levels of disruption we have seen as a result of the reckless and selfish tactics employed by some protest organisations in recent weeks,” she said.
Liam Norton of Insulate Britain said: “This is an inevitable consequence of non-violent civil resistance. The paradigm has shifted and ordinary protest is no longer suitable.
“The physical reality of climate change means that we are at risk of losing the 200 years of progress gained by social movements here in the UK.
“We either step into non-violent civil resistance or become a bystander to the greatest crime in human history.”
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