Civil liberties groups have reacted with dismay to 프리티 파텔’s plan to criminalise protest groups, saying demonstrations are a “core pillar of any healthy democracy”.
The home secretary indicated that she plans to prevent people travelling if they are known members of groups whose demonstrations block roads or otherwise interfere with national infrastructure, as she seeks to crack down on recent such actions by climate crisis activists.
But she was criticised by the human rights group Liberty, as well as the civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch and Human Rights Watch.
“Protest is a core pillar of any healthy democracy. The government should be supporting this right, not shutting it down,” said Sam Grant, the head of policy and campaigns at Liberty.
“Protest is not a gift from the state – it is a fundamental right. 그만큼 policing bill is an attack on the rights of everyone who has a cause they believe in; from climate activists to grieving families looking for answers and justice.”
Patel announced the plans during her Conservative party conference speech on Tuesday. The threat came after high-profile demonstrations by Extinction Rebellion and its splinter group Insulate Britain, which have shut down roads and targeted printing presses owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.
The groups have said they feel compelled to take such desperate action to draw attention to the climate emergency and to counter what they believe is a failure to adequately report on it by some news organisations.
Patel unveiled plans to use the police, 범죄, courts and sentencing bill – which the government hopes will become law within months – to grant new powers to the police to crack down on such activists.
On Tuesday, she claimed to value the freedom to protest and vowed to uphold it. 동시에, she referred to the demonstrators as “criminals” who should be prosecuted.
“Measures already going through parliament will ensure these criminals can be brought to justice for the disruption they are causing. But we are going further to close down the legal loopholes exploited by these offenders.
“So, today, I can announce I will also increase the maximum penalties for disrupting a motorway; criminalise interference with key infrastructure such as roads, railways and our free press; and give the police and courts new powers to deal with the small minority of offenders intent on travelling around the country, causing disruption and misery across our communities.”
Criticising the proposal, Grant said that, “no matter who we are, we all want to know we can safely stand up for what we believe in”.
The home secretary’s speech, 그는 말했다, posed a threat to the “very core of that belief, giving the police even more powers to stop and search people, and allowing the government to directly target protesters that they do not agree with and issue unjust fines and sentences”.
그는 덧붙였다: “Rather than giving the police more stop and search powers that disproportionately affect marginalised communities – black people are nine times more likely than white people to be stopped, for example – these powers should be significantly rolled back.”
Big Brother Watch said the plans resembled a “protest banning order” and vowed to oppose them, should Patel seek to follow through on her threats.
Yasmine Ahmed, the UK director at Human Rights Watch, called the move a “chilling erosion of our freedom of expression”.
Speaking at a fringe meeting organised by the organisation, the Conservative MP Chris Green said new legislation was not necessary because the powers already existed to police demonstrations – but that they were not being used effectively.
“I think the police already do have the powers,”그는 말했다. “But the system – whether it’s the police and others – are choosing not to use those powers.
“The new formulation in this way isn’t so much about having a government with these additional draconian powers, it’s fundamentally a mechanism to say to the civil service and the police and other agencies, you actually have to do the job we sent you out to do.”