Among protesters’ signs were messages of defiance, saying ‘no to the police state’amy howell

Cambridge residents gathered at Parker’s Piece outside Cambridge Police Station today (03/04) as part of the nationwide #KillTheBill protests taking place over the Easter weekend.

Varsity reporters at the scene estimated that the protest was attended by approximately 200 people, many carrying signs, who were wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. Representatives of Acorn, Stand up to Racism and Unite the Union were also present at the gathering.

The ‘#KillTheBill’ movement, responding to the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill, takes issue with its perceived restrictions on the right to protest.

Posters seen around the city of Cambridge invited residents to attend the protest to “defend your right to protest.”

Signs carried by protesters bore messages including: “No to the police state” and “we will not be silenced, protest is a right.”

A speaker in an introduction welcoming the protesters firstly encouraged people to maintain social distancing, and also emphasised that “many different movements from many different areas” were represented by the attendees.

The introduction was followed by periods of collective chanting, with messages including: “No justice, no peace, no racist police”; “this is what democracy looks like” and “this is what resistance looks like.”

Protesters were invited to speak to attendees through a megaphone, with many people recounting personal stories and reasons for their anxiety at the Bill, which was passed during a second reading by 359 votes to 263 on 16 March.

The Bill would allow police chiefs to impose a start and finish time for protests, set noise limits, fine protestors up to £2,500 for not conducting protests in accordance with police directions, with a three-month maximum jail sentence. It would also allow for the seizure of property and vehicles, and could see a ten-year maximum prison sentence for damages to memorials.

One speaker emphasised: “no matter what political background you come should be worried,” and added that “the whole of Cambridge should be here.”

Several speakers also emphasised that protesting is a “basic human right.”

Some of the speakers and signs also directly referred to the Conservative party, with one sign reading “Bin the tories” and another speaker stating “I know what facism looks like [...] its Boris Johnson.”

An attendee of the protest, who wished to remain anonymous, told Varsity: “It’s absolutely terrifying that [...] rights are threatened and are going to be imminently taken away, but I also think it’s especially important to come out on this on the protest side.”

“To have the amount it has in the Bill on protecting statues, that really got me [...] if that statue [in reference to the statue of Edward Colston toppled during a Black Lives Matter protest in Bristol last year] has more protections than Black and brown people’s lives in this country, we can’t sit still, we can’t stop protesting until that changes.”

The Cambridge SU endorsed this afternoon’s protest in a statement on Thursday (01/04), arguing: “This bill threatens the rights and safety of everyone, and communities already living at the sharp edge of state violence will be hit the hardest.”

It added: “As students, we know that victories can only be won through mass movements built on coalitions of solidarity.”

On the importance of the protest, another speaker at today’s event emphasised: “We cannot sit by and let our Black and brown sisters be treated like this [...] we cannot sleepwalk into facism any more.”

Speakers also cautioned that the bill was particularly concerning for Gypsy, Roma and travelling communities in the UK, with concerns about the parallels between the bill and “cultural genocide” being drawn several times by attendees.


Mountain View

Kill the Bill: Cambridge resident protests by climbing atop Parkside police station

Today’s action follows last week’s protest in Cambridge, which saw an estimated 80-100 people gather in the city centre, with one protestor seen climbing onto the roof of Parkside police station. Graffiti had also appeared on buildings in Jesus Green and the Market Square last month encouraging onlookers to “resist anti-trespass”.

Elsewhere, protesters gathered in Manchester city centre yesterday (02/04) following the easing of coronavirus restrictions on Monday (29/03) which allows socially-distanced peaceful protests, defying a 48-hour police dispersal order for the entire city centre following an illegal rave in Castlefield Bowl.

Protesters also gathered outside of Guildhall Square in Southampton yesterday (02/04) with a makeshift PA system and drums, with coordinated protests taking place in Leeds and London.

Protests have been reported across the country, in London, Aberystwyth, Bath, Birmingham, Bournemouth, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Cardiff, Derby, Exeter, Folkestone, Kendal, Lancaster, Lincoln, Liverpool, Luton, Manchester, Newcastle, Northampton, Norwich, Nottingham, Oxford, Plymouth and Portsmouth.

Covid-19 police have warned ahead of further protests that “Enforcement action will be taken, if needed, in the interests of public health”.