May 10, 2021

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Kill the protest bill fighting for the right to demonstrate

Thousands of people have demonstrated in the UK in recent months against the Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will not only give the police more powers to curb our right to protest against injustice and our fight for change, but it will also have an impact. The most vulnerable members of our community from a wide variety of societies.

The bill first appeared in the spotlight and garnered wider attention after harsh police measures at a peaceful protest in memory of Sarah Everard, who was kidnapped and killed in Clapham. The vigil was held on March 13th, days before the law was due to be debated in Parliament.

The new legislation to control demonstrations will include things like; Establish noise limits and restrictions on the chosen manner of protest, and apply the rules to a single person protest. The bill also seeks to increase the maximum penalty for defacing a memorial with imprisonment for up to 10 years, compared to penalties for rape that start with five years. It also has an extension of the powers to stop and search.

Current protest laws require the police to ensure that everyone is aware of the warning and instructions, for which they can be arrested, before any arrest can take place. The PCSC bill gives police the power to arrest anyone who violates the conditions, even if they did not receive a direct order from an officer. Meaning, protesters unaware of the conditions could be arrested, and those with hearing difficulties and mental health needs could be more at risk.

The bill will also affect the UK’s Gypsy, Roma and Backpacker communities, of which travel is an important part. If it is passed, it will incriminate trespassing with the intent to reside, with the possibility of removing their homes, heavy fines and prison terms. Homeless people who live in vehicles will also be affected.

As the Police Criminal Sentencing Act and Courts passed its second reading, it rallied people across the UK, attending days and weekends of patriotism 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, and the photos shown in the exhibition are from many of these protests in London, including today.

For more of Angela Cristofilo’s work, you can visit her website Here