Cayman Islands, Caribbeanand International News
Thursday, Feb 22, 2024

To save whatever Britain wrongly consider as “democracy”, the UK should kill its new police bill

To save whatever Britain wrongly consider as “democracy”, the UK should kill its new police bill

If the bill becomes legislation as expected, British democracy will suffer a blow unprecedented in recent history.
Imagine it is January 30, 1969, and you are walking by the Apple Corps headquarters on London’s famous Saville Row. Suddenly you hear something that stops you on your way – The Beatles is playing a live set on the rooftop of the building. For you, a Beatles fan, this is an unexpected, but much welcome gift. But you can see many shopkeepers clearly annoyed by the crowds congregating in the streets and on the roofs of nearby buildings.

Despite grumbling by some who perceive the music as nothing but noise and an unwelcome disturbance to a busy workday – perhaps even an act of defiance by music fans – The Beatles continues to play. Eventually, police officers ascend to the rooftop, and order the group to stop playing. But the intervention comes some 45 minutes after the beginning of the unauthorised performance. History has already been made. And nobody expects anyone, neither the band nor the audience, to face any further consequences for participating in the concert or gathering “illegally” in central London. Everyone continues with their day as if nothing had happened.

Now imagine the same concert is taking place in the near future, just after the passing of Boris Johnson government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently being debated at the House of Lords. With the new powers – and confidence – they obtained through the bill, coppers rush to the rooftop of the building, abruptly stop the show and arrest everyone there. Some of the people who “illegally” congregated on the street are also arrested. Those in custody, including The Beatles themselves, are looking at possibly spending months behind bars.

This is not just a bleak fantasy. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, if passed in its current form, would give powers to the police that may lead to such Orwellian scenarios. Indeed, under the new bill, those deemed to be causing a public nuisance – by making too much noise, blocking streets and storefronts, or generally “annoying” the public – can find themselves behind bars.

Of course, the main aim of this bill is not to stop surprise performances by beloved British bands – its goal is to stifle British people’s right to protest.

The new legislation proposes to give police new powers to tackle any non-violent public assembly that may have a “relevant impact on persons in the vicinity” or that “may result in serious disruption to the activities of an organisation which are carried on in the vicinity of the assembly”. It can be used to shut down almost any peaceful protest, including peaceful vigils. The new police powers would also include setting conditions on the duration of protests, maximum noise levels, and locations. All this will, undoubtedly, have a chilling effect on British people’s freedom to peacefully assemble and thus participate in democracy.

Moreover, Home Secretary Priti Patel managed to add 18 pages of amendments to the already illiberal bill after it passed through the Commons. The new version of the bill makes obstructing major transport works a new criminal offence. It also expands powers for stop and search without suspicion around protests. This means the police will have the power to stop and search individuals if they deem it could avoid “serious disruption” or a “public nuisance”. This can happen “whether or not the constable has any grounds for suspecting that the person … is carrying a prohibited object”.

Another amendment gives authorities the power, through “serious disruption prevention orders” or SDPOs, to ban named individuals from participating in protests or even using the internet to encourage others to do so. An SDPO can be imposed by the courts on anyone convicted of a “protest-related offence”. This category is extremely broad – it includes “infractions” such as possessing superglue near a demonstration.

The bill also proposes to introduce new laws against stopping on private and public land without authorisation, with penalties including the confiscation of vehicles. This would have the effect of criminalising the way of life of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller people. As the Guardian explained in a recent editorial, such extreme restrictions placed on nomadic lifestyles “risk stoking prejudice against communities and individuals who already face serious disadvantages”.

If this bill becomes legislation as expected later this month, British democracy will suffer a blow unprecedented in recent history. At the end of this road lurks a crime prevention philosophy that calls to mind Steven Spielberg’s dystopian movie, Minority Report.

Patel managed to take this draconian bill to this stage by taking advantage of the widespread backlash against disruptive protest actions by the environmental group, Insulate Britain.

Since the group’s formation in 2019, Insulate Britain activists have been blocking major motorways and disturbing public transport to make their voices heard. Their protests have angered a sizeable majority of the British public. Opinion polling conducted by YouGov in October 2021 found that 72 percent of those surveyed opposed the protesters’ actions.

It is understandable that in an atomised society, many are angered by, and even see as a threat, protests that disturb their daily activities. It is also true that people generally do not want to ever feel as if they are stuck in a tug of war between protesters and the authorities. They do not want their daily lives to be affected in any way by protests they may or may not support.

This new proposed legislation, however, does not really aim to protect the public from the excesses of protesters. This bill merely gives the government significant powers to arbitrarily limit the freedoms – and especially the freedom to protest – of citizens.

In an instance of Jungian synchronicity, the first appearance of the bill in Parliament coincided with the disgraceful police response to the vigil for Sarah Everard – the 33-year-old Londoner who had been kidnapped and murdered by a police officer on March 4. On March 13, police officers assaulted and forcefully arrested women who peacefully participated in an “illegal” vigil for Everard in Clapham Common. On the same day, British MPs discussed a bill that would give further powers to the police to clamp down on such vigils. In many ways, what happened that day was an ominous dress rehearsal for what is to come under the new bill.

Since the end of the 30-year period of economic growth and democratic gains experienced between 1945 and 1975 in the West – a period which French economist Jean Fourastie famously called “the Glorious Thirty” – democracy in the Western world has been on a steep decline.

During this time, Western governments started to swiftly move away from supporting active democracy, and tacitly created conditions for citizens to only participate in democracy passively. Eventually, popular participation in governance was reduced to the casting of a vote for one of a few preselected candidates every four or five years. The message that was being sent to the citizens was that after casting their vote, they should just stand aside and let elected officials do their work.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is nothing but an extension of this sentiment. It clearly tells the British public: after casting your vote, do not dare to interfere with the actions of those in power. But this is not democracy. The public should always maintain the right to correct the course of their governments through protests in democratic countries.

The UK has a long and successful history of disruptive protests. For example, British protesters – using the very same tactics the Johnson government is now trying to ban – convinced then Prime Minister John Major to abandon the pointless and environmentally destructive road-building programme that began in the early 1990s.

Apart from a handful of seasoned activists and specialised campaign groups, a few dissenting voices on the Left, and the Guardian newspaper which expressed its opposition to the bill in a recent editorial, the bill is moving towards becoming legislation without much resistance.

This is unacceptable. The Johnson government, under the guidance of the far-right Home Secretary Patel, is silently but surely moving to take away the British people’s right to peacefully protest and correct the course of its government. As the British civil rights group Liberty explained, this bill will “affect us all, with the dismantling of hard-won and deeply cherished rights to freely assemble and express dissent”.

Britons need to wake up and resist the attack on their rights and liberties before it is too late. If they do not act now and do everything they can to stop this bill, they may have to face severe consequences for speaking up against their government – or simply daring to disobey it in any minor way – in the near future.

Related Articles

Paper straws found to contain long-lasting and potentially toxic chemicals - study
FTX's Bankman-Fried headed for jail after judge revokes bail
Blackrock gets half a trillion dollar deal to rebuild Ukraine
Israel: Unprecedented Civil Disobedience Looms as IDF Reservists Protest Judiciary Reform
America's First New Nuclear Reactor in Nearly Seven Years Begins Operations
Southeast Asia moves closer to economic unity with new regional payments system
Today Hunter Biden’s best friend and business associate, Devon Archer, testified that Joe Biden met in Georgetown with Russian Moscow Mayor's Wife Yelena Baturina who later paid Hunter Biden $3.5 million in so called “consulting fees”
Singapore Carries Out First Execution of a Woman in Two Decades Amid Capital Punishment Debate
Google testing journalism AI. We are doing it already 2 years, and without Google biased propoganda and manipulated censorship
Unlike illegal imigrants coming by boats - US Citizens Will Need Visa To Travel To Europe in 2024
Musk announces Twitter name and logo change to X.com
The politician and the journalist lost control and started fighting on live broadcast.
The future of sports
Unveiling the Black Hole: The Mysterious Fate of EU's Aid to Ukraine
Farewell to a Music Titan: Tony Bennett, Renowned Jazz and Pop Vocalist, Passes Away at 96
Alarming Behavior Among Florida's Sharks Raises Concerns Over Possible Cocaine Exposure
Transgender Exclusion in Miss Italy Stirs Controversy Amidst Changing Global Beauty Pageant Landscape
Joe Biden admitted, in his own words, that he delivered what he promised in exchange for the $10 million bribe he received from the Ukraine Oil Company.
TikTok Takes On Spotify And Apple, Launches Own Music Service
Global Trend: Using Anti-Fake News Laws as Censorship Tools - A Deep Dive into Tunisia's Scenario
Arresting Putin During South African Visit Would Equate to War Declaration, Asserts President Ramaphosa
Hacktivist Collective Anonymous Launches 'Project Disclosure' to Unearth Information on UFOs and ETIs
Typo sends millions of US military emails to Russian ally Mali
Server Arrested For Theft After Refusing To Pay A Table's $100 Restaurant Bill When They Dined & Dashed
The Changing Face of Europe: How Mass Migration is Reshaping the Political Landscape
China Urges EU to Clarify Strategic Partnership Amid Trade Tensions
Europe is boiling: Extreme Weather Conditions Prevail Across the Continent
The Last Pour: Anchor Brewing, America's Pioneer Craft Brewer, Closes After 127 Years
Democracy not: EU's Digital Commissioner Considers Shutting Down Social Media Platforms Amid Social Unrest
Sarah Silverman and Renowned Authors Lodge Copyright Infringement Case Against OpenAI and Meta
Italian Court's Controversial Ruling on Sexual Harassment Ignites Uproar
Why Do Tech Executives Support Kennedy Jr.?
The New York Times Announces Closure of its Sports Section in Favor of The Athletic
BBC Anchor Huw Edwards Hospitalized Amid Child Sex Abuse Allegations, Family Confirms
Florida Attorney General requests Meta CEO's testimony on company's platforms' alleged facilitation of illicit activities
The Distorted Mirror of actual approval ratings: Examining the True Threat to Democracy Beyond the Persona of Putin
40,000 child slaves in Congo are forced to work in cobalt mines so we can drive electric cars.
BBC Personalities Rebuke Accusations Amidst Scandal Involving Teen Exploitation
A Swift Disappointment: Why Is Taylor Swift Bypassing Canada on Her Global Tour?
Historic Moment: Edgars Rinkevics, EU's First Openly Gay Head of State, Takes Office as Latvia's President
Bye bye democracy, human rights, freedom: French Cops Can Now Secretly Activate Phone Cameras, Microphones And GPS To Spy On Citizens
The Poor Man With Money, Mark Zuckerberg, Unveils Twitter Replica with Heavy-Handed Censorship: A New Low in Innovation?
Unilever Plummets in a $2.5 Billion Free Fall, to begin with: A Reckoning for Misuse of Corporate Power Against National Interest
Beyond the Blame Game: The Need for Nuanced Perspectives on America's Complex Reality
Twitter Targets Meta: A Tangle of Trade Secrets and Copycat Culture
The Double-Edged Sword of AI: AI is linked to layoffs in industry that created it
US Sanctions on China's Chip Industry Backfire, Prompting Self-Inflicted Blowback
Meta Copy Twitter with New App, Threads
The New French Revolution
BlackRock Bitcoin ETF Application Refiled, Naming Coinbase as ‘Surveillance-Sharing’ Partner