More on Public Order Bill
Key areas of concern in the Public Order Bill are:
1. Serious Disruption Prevention Orders or ‘Protest Banning Orders’
People could be banned from protesting, meeting certain people, have their internet use restricted and be subject to electronic surveillance – or risk 51 weeks in prison. This is a serious expansion of State surveillance and would completely remove an individual’s right to attend a protest – as even the police have said.
2. New offence: Obstructing major infrastructure works
This incredibly broad and vaguely-defined offence risks disproportionate criminalisation–including criminalisation of protesters in breach of Articles 10 (Right to Freedom of Expression) and 11 (Right to Freedom of assembly and association) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
“Prevent[ing] the infrastructure from being used or operated to any extent for any of its intended purposes”, with no need to cause or intend disruption, is a very low hurdle.
3. The introduction of protest-specific stop and search – with and without suspicion
These measures mark a gross expansion of police powers. They will further entrench racism in the criminal justice system as time and again such powers are used disproportionately against communities of colour. It would have a deep and long-lasting impact on the physical and mental health of those searched, on trust in the police and on community cohesion.
4. The creation of protest-specific offences: ‘Locking On’
These measures restrict our right to choose how we protest and criminalises a long list of activities stretching beyond ‘lock-on protests’ to any activity involving people ‘attaching’ themselves to other people, an object, or land; or ‘attaching’ objects to other objects and land. Any person walking around with a bike lock, packet of glue, roll of tape or twine etc. could be at risk of being found to have committed an offence.
Conclusion on the Public Order Bill
The threats presented by the Public Order Bill must not be underestimated. From protests taking place in opposition to the Government’s Rwanda asylum plan, to gatherings in Parliament Square about the ongoing cost of living crisis to people striking for climate justice, protest remains at the heart of how we stand up to power and we must fight to defend it.