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Government's new policing Bill will see ‘many more Shrewsburys,’ campaigners warn

CAMPAIGNERS have warned that the government’s repression of protesters under the policing Bill will see “many more Shrewsburys.”

The convictions of the Shrewsbury 24 pickets were quashed last week, reversing almost 50 years of injustice. 

Speaking at an online panel on Wednesday night, Labour MP John McDonnell warned that the public was seeing a “fundamental assault” on civil liberties and human rights through government legislation, including the proposed policing Bill. 

He said the “draconian” Bill “effectively undermines the rights that we’ve campaigned for over centuries” through protests and pickets, and had been carefully planned by the government to stamp out resistance. 

“What [the government is] seeing is a wave of resistance where people have had enough of 11 years of austerity, they’ve had enough of the mishandling of the Covid crisis,” he said.

“They’ve had enough, particularly young people, in living in a society which, despite what the government-inspired report says, is institutionally racist.

“This is the same with women at Clapham common coming out against the nature of sexism and misogyny in our society.”

Mr McDonnell said there has also been a new wave of victimisation of trade unionists standing up for their rights, with employers using fire and rehire tactics as well as the pay freeze on public-sector workers.

“If we allow this legislation to go through, we will see many more Shrewsburys and we’ll see more injustice right away across our society,” he said.

He called for solidarity with others resisting, adding: “An injury to one is an injury to all.”

Dave Smith of the Blacklist Support Group said that “working people don’t get anything unless we fight for it. This is just how capitalism works.

“Under the new laws that Priti Patel’s trying to introduce, [workers’] protests would probably be illegal, but sometimes you have to fight unjust laws, and sometimes you have to break unjust laws. 

“And that’s the inspiration I hope everyone gets from the Shrewsbury pickets.”

Shrewsbury picket and actor Ricky Tomlinson gave a passionate account of what it was like during the trials and after both he and Des Warren were released from prison, and the struggles they faced after being blacklisted. 

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