Thousands of people have been protesting in the UK in recent months against the government’s Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will not only give the police more powers to curb our right to protest against injustices and our fight for change, but it will also impact the most vulnerable members of our society from a wide range of communities.
The Bill first came into the spotlight and got wider attention after the heavy handed policing of a peaceful vigil in memory of Sarah Everard, who was kidnaped and murdered in Clapham. The vigil was held on 13 March, days before the bill was due to be debated in Parliament.
The new piece of legislation to control demonstrations will include things such as; setting noise limits, restrictions on chosen method of protesting and applying rules to a protest of one person. The bill also looks to increase the maximum penalty for defacing a memorial of up to 10 years in prison, compared to rape sentences, which start at five years. An extension of stop and search powers also feature.
Current protest laws require police to ensure that everyone is aware of warning and instructions, that they could be arrested for, before any arrest can happen. The PCSC bill will give police the power to arrest anyone breaching conditions, even if they have not received a direct order from an officer. Meaning, protesters unaware of conditions could be arrested, and those with hearing difficulties and mental health needs could be at higher risk.
The bill will also impact Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities in the UK, of which travelling is a significant part of. If passed, it will criminalise trespass with the intention to reside, with the possibility of removal of their homes, large fines and prison time. Homeless people who live in vehicles will also be affected.
As the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill has passed its second reading, people all across the UK have mobilised, attending days and weekends of national action to oppose it. Most of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today would not be possible without past protests and demonstrations. I was there to capture some of these moments, the images featured in the gallery are from several of these protests in London, including todays.
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