Protesters rally across UK against police and crime bill

Protesters have taken to the streets in cities across the UK to rally against the police and crime bill reaching its final stages in parliament.

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Photograph: Andy Rain/EPA

The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill, sections of which have been condemned by human rights activists as an attack on the right to protest, will be voted on in the House of Lords on Monday.

Hundreds of “kill the bill” protesters rallied in London on Saturday, while demonstrations also took place in cities including Bristol, Cardiff, Coventry, Newcastle, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, Sheffield and Plymouth.

In the capital, demonstrators marched from Holborn to Parliament Square carrying signs reading “defend the right to protest”, while one protester carried a coffin with the words “UK democracy – murdered by the Tories” printed on its side. Many also carried Extinction Rebellion flags.


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Terry Matthews, 69, from south London, told PA Media: “I think we’re facing a really vitriolic attack on our rights to protest and our freedoms to show our dissatisfaction with the status of the government and the country. And it’s a really dangerous step to try to take.”

Related: ‘Dangerous’ new UK policing bill would crush protests like ours, Gurkhas warn

Addressing the crowd in Parliament Square, the Labour peer Shami Chakrabarti said the bill’s anti-protest provisions “represent the greatest attack on peaceful dissent in living memory”. “This rightwing, authoritarian government used to encourage pro-Brexit demos and statue defenders when it suited them,” she said.

Chakrabarti accused the government of hypocrisy, saying it “bangs on about free speech and whinges about cancel culture” and other countries “where fundamental rights are under attack” while clamping down on rights in the UK. “Free speech is a two-way street. And do you know what? The ultimate cancel culture, it doesn’t come with a tweet – it comes with a police baton and a prison sentence for nonviolent dissent,” she said.

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A woman dressed as a suffragette at a protest in Cardiff on Saturday. Photograph: Matthew Horwood/Getty Images

The bill’s anti-protest measures grant police the power to ban marches and demonstrations they consider to be “seriously disruptive”, including those deemed too noisy. Gypsy, Roma and traveller communities would effectively be criminalised by measures against residing on land without authorisation, while police would also be granted expanded stop and search powers and sentences of up to 10 years could be handed down for damage to memorials or statues.

Labour members in the House of Lords will oppose last-minute amendments to the bill, it was announced on Friday. The amendments added in November, which focus on new powers to control protests, include new offences for “locking on” – where protesters attach themselves to objects or each other – and would give police the power to ban named individuals from protesting.

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