Protestors carried signs and listened to speeches from trade union representativesELLA SHATTOCK/VARSITY

Protesters assembled on Parker’s Piece today (01/05) to express their concerns about the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (PCSC). The protest was organised by the Cambridge community branch of UNITE as part of nationwide Kill the Bill protests on 1 May, celebrated by trade unions as ‘International Workers’ Day’ or Labour Day.

Over 200 socially-distanced demonstrators gathered opposite Cambridge Police Station. Representatives from the Cambridge & District Trade Council, the Quakers, the Cambridge Socialist Appeal and the Hunt Saboteurs Association were in attendance.

Speeches were given by trade union representatives and Extinction Rebellion (XR) activists. Several protesters waved orange XR flags and others carried signs whose slogans included: “If it isn’t disruptive, it isn’t a protest!” and “Protesting my right to speak truth to power.”

One speaker who addressed demonstrators said: “People don’t protest for fun. We protest because we are fighting for a better world. We protest because we don’t have any other option. We cannot accept the world as it is. The world as it is is not fit for purpose.”

“Demonstrations are a weapon for our movement, the Labour movement, to change society” they continued. “So long as there’s racism, we will still protest. So long as there’s violence against women, we will still protest. So long as huge corporations are allowed to continue to destroy the environment, we will still protest.”

The PCSC Bill, which remains in the House of Commons’ committee stage, will bring in longer sentences for “public nuisance” and “widen the range of conditions that the police can impose on assemblies (static protests).”


Mountain View

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

Critics argue that this will impede upon the right to peaceful protest in the UK. A speech given at the protest by a representative of Extinction Rebellion emphasised the effect of the bill on climate protest, further suggesting that it is “almost billed at XR” for “stretching the limits of peaceful protest.”

On the event’s Facebook page, the Cambridge Community Branch of UNITE state that the PCSC Bill “attack[s] the foundations of our democracy by effectively outlawing peaceful protest. The Police would be able, for instance, to prohibit a protest on the grounds of nuisance, noise or causing offence.”

It continues: “It is doubly dangerous because the definition of these terms is left to the Home Secretary by way of Statutory Instrument, who would be able to draw them as theywished. The implications for the Trade Union Movement are obvious and chilling.”

Protesters were asked to wear masks and remain socially distanced during the demonstration. One police officer nearby said that he was “happy to observe” and that, provided social distancing was obeyed, “these people have a lawful right to be here to protest.”