How the Police Crackdown Bill will impact climate protests

This attack on democracy is a response to movements of people power.

by Scarlett Westbrook
|
18 March 2021, 2:27pm

In the wake of the UK’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill passing at second reading with a sizeable majority, many across the country are despairing at what this means for the future of civil liberties; and in particular, protests.

The #PoliceCrackdownBill will enact measures expanding the power of the state — from extending stop and search, to criminalising Gypsy and Traveller communities via targeted anti-trespass clauses. It will then inhibit our right to protest said abused state power by allowing individual police officers to impose start and finish times and set noise limits at protests. It would also grant police officers the jurisdiction to deem what issues are acceptable to protest, and those who breach the rules will be subject to fines of up to £2,500 — even if the protest consists of just one person.

These moves are no surprise to climate activists, coming as they are from a state that has shown us nothing but contempt. Whether it’s threatening school climate strikers with arrest for demonstrating their democratic right to protest, or kettling us at protests, we are no strangers to protest suppression — and we’re only children.

The bill builds on this existing inhumanity; effectively criminalising protests. So, the government is trying to take away our futures through failing to meet decarbonisation targets while simultaneously inhibiting our right to fight this in the present. However, what they don’t realise is that we won’t be frightened off by their breaches of civil liberties.

“This blanket attempt at silencing is going to be met with the opposite. We will, and already are, going to fight this bill on the streets in protests across the country that everyone is welcome to join.”

They have tried to scare us off before, but we have not been deterred from fighting for climate justice because the climate crisis is not going to wait for activists not to be seen as ‘seriously annoying’ before striking. In a world littered with climate inaction, warm words won’t make the planet cool — we must engage in protest, and we have a human right and historic responsibility to do so.

There is no doubt that this attack on democracy comes in response to the scale of protests against state-orchestrated violence in the past few months — whether that’s climate inaction, Black Lives Matter, or sexual harassment.

Brushing off environmental and social justice as a cause of annoyance is a clever ploy to alienate the public from supporting radical change. But a survey of over 80,000 people internationally published last year as part of the University of Oxford’s Reuters Institute annual Digital News Reports found almost seven in ten think climate change is “a very, or extremely serious, problem”, showing that we have secured widespread public traction around the climate that is not going anywhere. We have people power driving our movement — something that won’t be eroded by decisions characteristic of authoritarian governments.

“This bill is racist, it is classist, it is antiziganist (anti-Roma), it is sexist, and it is not going to be legislated without serious resistance.”

The government is trying to stop the most marginalised communities from speaking out against the oppression that they disproportionately experience by providing the police with unaccountable, sweeping powers. We are not going to let our protest scene become one where only those who can afford the fines are on the streets. This bill is racist, it is classist, it is antiziganist (anti-Roma), it is sexist, and it is not going to be legislated without serious resistance.

We will, and already are, going to fight this bill on the streets in protests across the country that everyone is welcome to join.

We can fight it in the House of Commons and House of Lords through lobbying the members of these mechanisms via email and phone. We will fight against it in the courts, for it is a fundamental breach of our human rights, and most importantly, we will remind the government that their job is to represent us, not repress us. The youth climate movement mobilised hundreds of thousands of people in the UK, and we will not hesitate to do it again as the state tries to stamp us out in a malice-filled bid to hide their failures.

In times like this, we must recognise the power of placards and show up for the planet, as the government tries to sell it out. We must stop them from fracking further towards climate destruction and classist, racial oppression, and build a fairer future. We must put an end to this dystopian disaster by uniting together to make sure our voices are heard, because we have a world to win.

You can find a handy template for emailing you MP about this here.

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protest
climate crisis