Johnson’s police law: Attack on the right to demonstrate?



AUtoritarian, reactionary, repressive: The criticism of possible restrictions on the freedom to demonstrate through the planned British police law in the House of Lords could hardly have been more scathing. Members of the House of Lords inflicted one vote defeat after the other on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government on Tuesday night.

By a large majority, the Lords rejected several paragraphs in the draft of the proposed new Police Act. For example, it provided for significant restrictions on protests if the police considered them to be a noise nuisance or block traffic routes.

With the “Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill”, the Johnson government wants to put climate and anti-racism protests in their place, which have made headlines in recent years. The bill went through the last stage in the upper house on Tuesday night – and should then return to the lower house. The government is expected to largely reverse the Lords’ changes to the Commons. Usually the House of Lords gives way in this case.

Critics see human rights in question

Critics fear that the vague regulations and powers for the police could lead to the dissolution of any demo as illegal. If one can no longer express one’s disapproval of the government’s actions with noise on the street, “human rights are seriously at stake,” said Conservative House of Lords member John Gummer during the debate on Monday evening. The Bishop of Leeds, Nick Baines, who also sits in the House of Lords, referred to Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela, who were honored with statues erected in the square in front of the British Parliament: their protest, Baines said, would not have taken place under the circumstances be able.


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