Jeremy Corbyn says ‘the right to protest is precious’
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And former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is planning to address one rally in Hyde Park this afternoon. Police in London have warned they are ready to take enforcement action “in the interests of public health”.
Since the bill was brought before Parliament last month, there have been sporadic protests across the country.
Three demonstrations in Bristol on March 21, 23 and 26 turned violent, with officers and a police station pelted with bricks and glass bottles, and police vehicles set on fire.
One man, 25-year-old Ryan Paul Roberts, was yesterday charged with arson with intent to endanger life, two counts of criminal damage and two counts of assaulting an emergency worker, in relation to the March 21 disorder.
Avon and Somerset police have also issued photos of a number of people they want to question in connection with the disorder.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticised what he described as “disgraceful attacks” on officers.
However, protesters countered by accusing police of using heavy-handed tactics.
On Saturday, activists, climate change campaigners, and the Black Lives Matter movement say they will join “kill the bill” rallies in London and other towns and cities including Manchester, Leeds, Brighton and Bristol.
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Alanna Byrne from environmental group Extinction Rebellion said: “As protest is criminalised and our fake democracy is pushed further towards authoritarianism, we seek to find where we can come together with other movements to tackle the common causes that affect us all.”
Days of protests by her group paralysed parts of London in early 2019, action which helped fuel calls from some politicians for the police to be given the tougher powers to prevent excessive disruption.
Demonstrations had not been permitted while a coronavirus lockdown was in place, but restrictions were eased this week, meaning organised rallies can go ahead providing they are “COVID secure”.
In London, police warned: “Enforcement action will be taken, if needed, in the interests of public health”.
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Bristol: Police van seen on fire during 'Kill the Bill' protest
The phrase “Kill the bill” is frequently used by those hostile to the police, and is commonly understood in that context.
A tweet by the Peace and Justice Project, the campaign group Mr Corbyn founded earlier this year, shared a video of the Islington North MP – who had the whip withdrawn by Labour last year after he criticising the conclusions of an inquiry in anti-Semitism within the party – in advance of today’s London protests, at which he will speak.
In it, he says: “The right to protest is precious. I’m proud to have protested against injustice when and defended the right to protest itself.
“That right, which gives a voice to those often unheard, is once again under threat from a dangerous bill, which effectively criminalises peaceful protests.
“Just this month, we saw a vigil attacked by the police, not even a protest, a dignified remembrance moment for the horrific murder of Sarah Everard.
“The Conservatives now want the right to ban any protest simply because they deem it an annoyance.
“Annoying the powerful is not a crime.”
Sir Keir Starmer, Mr Corbyn’s successor as Labour leader, struck a very different tone when speaking to LBC on March 22, the day after the first Kill the Bill protest.
He said: “Looking at the images last night, looking at the images again this morning, inexcusable, completely unacceptable and I hope that the perpetrators are identified and prosecuted where that’s appropriate.”
Sir Keir said he had discussed the situation with Mayor of Bristol Marvin Rees, who “was expressing the anger that the people of Bristol feel that this has happened in their city”.
He added: “He feels strongly that in Bristol that they’ve been through a very difficult year, they’ve pulled together through the pandemic and the anger that this has happened is there among every decent member of the community in Bristol.”
Express.co.uk has approached Mr Corbyn to offer him a chance to comment about the use of the #KillTheBill hashtag in the Peace and Justice Project’s tweet.
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