The controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill proposed by the conservative Boris Johnson government was passed in its third reading in the UK House of Commons late on Monday, July 5, despite continuing ‘Kill the Bill’ protests by progressive sections. The bill was passed with 365 votes in favor and 265 votes in opposition in the 650 seat House of Commons. The vote saw Conservatives and Democratic Unionists voting in favor while members of the Labor Party, Liberal Democrats, Scottish Nationalist Party among others voted against. The second and the first reading of the bill took place in March this year.
The bill will now be moved to the House of Lords and then for the royal assent. The protesters are of the opinion that provisions in the bill will give the police more discretionary powers which are detrimental to the right to protest and freedom of expression in the country.
The Tory government proposed the bill in the UK parliament to supposedly overhaul the police and criminal justice system, and sentencing legislation. According to reports, the third part of the bill which deals with protests and public assembly gives the police unconditional power to control public gatherings and protests. The police will be allowed to criminalize protests by terming it “public nuisance,” and can control demonstrations by imposing start and finish timings and noise limits. Action of one individual can be considered as protest under the provisions of the new bill. Non-compliance with police guidelines may result in fines up to 2,500 pounds (USD 3458.65).
Part four of the bill, calling for penalizing ‘unauthorized’ encampments and ‘trespassing’ are likely to be used to target Roma and traveler communities.
On July 6, following the third reading of the bill, feminist activist group Sisters Uncut — a major organizer of the ‘Kill the Bill’ protests — tweeted that “while the Tories were chatting about ‘freedom’, they were legislating to take away ours – our freedom to assemble, our freedom to make noise, our freedom to live without fear of police violence. The Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts bill doesn’t just criminalize protest, it criminalizes whole communities.”
“But just because it has passed, it doesn’t mean it can be enforced. The movement to Kill the Bill was never about parliamentary lobbying but about resisting police powers, state racism, and authoritarian nationalism. Now is not the time to give up but to double down. This is only the beginning!” added the Sisters Uncut.
The Socialist Worker alleged that through the police bill, the Tories are launching a two-pronged assault on fundamental rights. “The Tories’ repression has two aims. One is to meet the resistance from ordinary people including the working class and the rights activists. The second is to create a section of “dangerous” people—enemies who can be scapegoated for the Tories’ failures.”