“Putting more conditions onto protests is something that will inevitably harm minorities- this is because often protests occur as a response to pieces of legislation or social issues that directly harm them. They are often a show of solidarity and strength for a cause“.Jasneet Samrai
Ahead of tomorrow’s vote on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, I felt as if it was important to further lay out why oppose this bill and why its implementation will directly harm minorities within the UK. This is a government bill that has been widely spoken over the weekend due to its contents which enable police to put more conditions on protests. This is something that is highly contentious due to the police actions that occurred at the Clapham Common vigil for Sarah Everard this weekend, with campaign groups like Amnesty International UK arguing that the passing of the Bill could lead to more scenes like it.
Putting more conditions onto protests is something that will inevitably harm minorities- this is because often protests occur as a response to pieces of legislation or social issues that directly harm them. They are often a show of solidarity and strength for a cause. Protests also play a huge role within democracies, with them being a tool for change. Often, their existence helps to bring a light to social inequalities: as seen through the Women’s Marches and Black Lives Matter protests.
Putting on more restrictions, such as noise restrictions, is a clear attack on this right. When protesting, it is often impossible to work out how loud the protest is, and for individuals to have any control over the total volume. Under the new legislation in these circumstances, anybody who has taken part in the protest could be fined under these new terms. Moreover, individuals will get no warnings from police officers prior to being fined. This new legislation will also mean that protests are able to be shut down due to the actions of one person. As well as this, a protest could be shut down because it causes serious distress, yet there is no clear clarification as to what this includes. Overall, the above content that the proposed legislation includes demonstrates that in practice it will stifle protest: this potentially acting as a barrier to minority voices.
Furthermore, the bill also increases the amount of stop and search powers that the police have. These are powers which disproportionately impact minorities, with black people being 8.9 times more likely to stopped than white people. This inequality also extends further to all people of colour, who are 4.3 times more likely to be stopped than white people within the UK. These statistics show that stop and search policies are already inherently discriminatory, the expansion of their usage would target those who are from racial minorities. Instead, we believe that a community based approach should be used in order to tackle violence- as seen to be effective through a study in Manchester.
This bill is one that also criminalises traveller communities, which would make thousands of them homeless. Before publishing the bill, the Government have also failed to give any details to Gypsy and Traveller charities, despite giving these details to the mainstream media. The penalty that travellers will have to face could be up to three months in prison. This section of the bill is so significant as it effectively criminalises major parts of these community’s identity- with a risk of it being wiped out.
Just from these three aspects alone: it can clearly be seen that this bill is one that directly harms minorities- stopping their views from being heard and targets them in everyday settings. Therefore, it must be opposed and alternative approaches to justice policy must be explored: such as more community-focused approaches.
Written by Jasneet Samrai, the Deputy Director and the Equalities Spokesperson for Centre. They have worked as a campaign organiser, helping to elect 3 MEP’s and they are the Pastoral Care Officer for Centre.