Women to protest “repressive” police bill proposed by UK government
Women’s rights groups are set to protest the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill while it’s debated in the UK’s House of Lords this week.
Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike and Women Against Rape are organising the event to protest the legislation, which has led to nationwide demonstrations since it was announced in March due to the draconian measures it contains.
The bill would give the police in England and Wales additional powers that would restrict the right to protest, by criminalising any public gathering the Home Secretary deems to be “noisy”, “annoying”, “trespass”, cause “obstruction”, or be a “nuisance”’. Human rights organisation Liberty says this is “allowing the State to change its meaning to target any protest it doesn’t like.”
Under the new legislation, causing “serious annoyance” will become a criminal offence punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Additionally by criminalising trespassing, the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller way of life will effectively become illegal, subjecting communities that are already marginalised to further profiling and disproportionate policing.
The bill would lengthen sentences, and move the automatic release date from half-way through a sentence to two-thirds. It also includes new Serious Violent Crime Reduction Orders that give police extra powers to stop and search without “reasonable grounds”. The Government’s own consultation acknowledges that this will impact “a disproportionate number of Black people.”
More than 600 GPs, nurses, social, youth and outreach workers and teachers have written a letter to Home Secretary Priti Patel to express outrage over the bill’s requirement that public sector workers collaborate with police to “predict crime”’. In the letter they warn that the bill is “oppressive” and would force frontline professionals to betray the trust of vulnerable people and become complicit in surveillance.
Women of Colour Global Women’s Strike and Women Against Rape say the bill “will strengthen the worst policing and invite violent, sexist, racist elements to join. The Police Bill adds to other repressive laws that increase state impunity, such Spy Cops and the Overseas Operations Bill.
“We are outraged the Bill attempts to use women’s fury against the impunity of rapists and other abusers, by offering longer sentences for violent crimes. This would only affect a tiny minority of attackers – the vast majority are never taken to court. It is a smokescreen for a Bill leading towards a police state – substituting justice with widespread repression.
“The Bill would encourage police illegality, sexism, racism and corruption. Let’s not forget that the police whose powers are being massively enhanced have been found to be institutionally sexist, racist and corrupt.
“The police don’t need more powers. They need to be accountable to our communities and use the powers they have to protect women and children against violent men, including police officers, instead of criminalising us, especially if we are working-class and of colour.”
Analysis done by The 99% Organisation shows that the UK will no longer be a functioning democracy if the bill passes.
The bill was voted through by ministers in July, and needs to be approved by the House of Lords before it becomes law.
Women protest the Police Bill takes place on Tuesday 14th opposite the House of Lords in London.