UK police get special powers to deal with ‘disruptive protests’

The UK government has announced plans to empower police to deal with “disruptive protests” such as those organized by climate activists. This will allow police to intervene before protests become too disruptive.

The proposed move would allow police to be more explicit about dealing with demonstrators blocking roads and slowing marches, with Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and Just A tactic often used by groups such as Stop Oil.

Under the proposed amendments to the Public Order Bill, police can stop demonstrations before they escalate, instead of having to wait for chaos to erupt.

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Prime Minister Rishi Snak speaks at a key address at Plexal in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, East London, 4 January 2023. (Stefan Rousseau/PA Media)

Downing Street said police need not treat series of protests by the same group as separate incidents, but could consider their overall impact.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said, “The right to protest is a fundamental principle of our democracy, but it is not absolute. must be balanced between

“We cannot have a minority protest that disrupts the lives of the general public. It is unacceptable and we will end it. You asked us to clarify, and we listened.”

police welcome clarity

The proposed measures have been welcomed by senior police officers.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Mark Rowley said: “It is clear that everyone has the right to protest. The lack of clarity in the law and the complexity of case law make this more difficult and contentious.”

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Just Stop Oil activists glue their hands to the wall after throwing soup on Vincent van Gogh’s ‘Sunflowers’ at the National Gallery in London, October 14, 2022. (Just Stop Oil via Reuters/Handout)

Laurie added: We are not asking for new powers to curb or limit protests, but we have asked for legal clarity on where the balance of rights should be.

“We welcome the government’s proposal to introduce legal definitions of ‘serious disruption’ and ‘reasonable excuse.’ It creates a clearer line for police to enforce when it comes to influencing other people who want to do business in the public interest.”

Constable BJ Harrington, chief of public order and public safety on the National Police Commissioner’s Council, said: An activist who deliberately disrupts people’s lives through dangerous and reckless criminal activity. “

Labor opposes law change

The largest opposition party, Labor, has opposed the proposed law change, saying police already have the necessary powers to tackle devastating climate change protests.

Labor Party leader Sir Kiel Sturmer told LBC Radio: I want the police to act. “

Commenting on police calls for more clarity, he said: right, what’s the problem?

“Because it’s unacceptable to be walking at a funeral speed off the highway. If the police say, ‘Yes, that’s a crime. Get in and do something about it,’ I’ll do it.” I think ‘they could do something about it tomorrow morning.

“We cannot legislate a way out of every problem,” he added, adding that he would get “the most senior lawyers we can to make the strongest statements and test them in court.” wax.

“If we can do that, we can actually take this action tomorrow instead of waiting for the law to pass,” he said.

The government has also been criticized by human rights groups such as Liberty.

Liberty Director Martha Spurrier said:

“Allowing police to stop protests before chaos erupts, not to mention setting a dangerous precedent and making the job of police officers who police protests more complicated.”

PA Media contributed to this report.

Alexander Chan