One demonstrator called the bill 'catastrophic'Juliette Kendal

Protesters gathered in Market Square today (15/01) to demonstrate against the police and crime bill, as part of the Kill the Bill Campaign’s ‘National Day of Unity.’

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill has been said by activists to contain legislation that breaches human rights. It has already passed through the House of Commons and is set to be voted on in the House of Lords on Monday.

The protest began with a series of speeches given by activists and representatives from organisations including Cambridge Socialist Workers Party, Association of Community Organisations for Reform Now and Palestine Solidarity Campaign. There was then a demonstration through the streets of Cambridge, followed by more speeches.

Speakers at the event raised their concerns about the potential impact of the bill, including its effect on Traveller communities, who could see their way of life being threatened with the bill’s passing, as it sets to criminalise residing on land without permission.

The bill would give greater power to police and government to regulate non-violent protests. This would include allowing police to set a start and finish time, limit noise and fine protesters up to £2,500 if they do not protest in accordance with the regulations.

It permits a three-month maximum prison sentence for involvement in a protest, and a ten-year maximum sentence for damages to statues and memorials.

One protester called the bill ‘catastrophic’, adding: “if we can’t go out and protest then we have reached the end of change. All major change throughout history has come out of protest. To restrict the right to protest, particularly in large numbers, is ridiculous.”

The bill would also expand the ‘stop-and-search’ power given to police with the right to arrest those who don’t comply.

Another protester raised concern at the uneven way the police could wield this increased power: “I’m doubly concerned because white middle-aged men such as myself will probably get a free pass whereas with a black teenager the law will be applied a lot more harshly.”

The bill also poses a threat not only to foreign and dual nationals, but also those with the possibility of being dual nationals, as it enables the government to strip them of their citizenship without warning if they see fit.

Various political clubs in Cambridge supported the protests. Cambridge University Labour Club told Varsity, “CULC believes that the Bill is wholly undemocratic; an affront on the freedom of speech that Conservatives always appear to revere.


Mountain View

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

“It is unacceptable to criminalise protest in this way - to disagree with the government, and to make that disagreement felt, is a fundamental human right.”

Similar opposition to the bill has come from Cambridge University Liberal Association. Chair Laura Ryan told Varsity, “The Policing Bill is authoritarian, illiberal, and a clear power-grab from a Government that doesn’t care about its people’s rights.”

“Contained within the bill are extra police powers to prevent peaceful protests, extend sentences, and criminalise Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. It’s an absolute assault on our rights, and should be opposed in full.”

Protests have taken place up and down the country today in cities including London, Bristol, Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester.