Thousands of protesters gathered in cities throughout the UK on Saturday to demonstrate against a crime bill that would threaten the right to peaceful protest.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – which passed its second reading in Parliament in late March – gives the Home Office the power to define which kind of protests should be banned, and would allow police to block protests that are likely to have an “impact”. The “impact” in question could be something as minor as the noise generated by a demonstration.
At Saturday’s protest in London, Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said, “The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill should come as no surprise – it’s part of an authoritarian drive from this government. We can see it in everything they have been doing recently, from voter ID registration to anti-union laws and now anti-protest laws. They want to strip away our hard-fought, hard-won democratic rights, and we must stop them.”
In Bristol, police forcefully dispersed “Kill the Bill” protesters for the fourth time in two weeks. Officers in Bristol were criticised after footage emerged of police brutality during last weekend’s protests in the city, while human rights group Liberty has launched legal action on behalf of four legal observers, who were arrested at a London demonstration against the bill on the 16th of March.
This weekend saw protests in at least 20 towns and cities across the country. Photographer Chris Bethell was in Manchester to capture what unfolded.