The UK government is discussing a bill to give the police and ministers new powers that could potentially limit the ability of citizens to protest.
The legislation is being discussed in Parliament this week, just days after officers from London’s Metropolitan Police physically restrained attendees who protested the death of Sarah Everard. The vigil had been declared unlawful due to coronavirus restrictions and the main London force tussled with some protesters.
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021 covers a range of issues and will be discussed at the House of Commons as its second reading on Tuesday. The bill proposes new conditions on “one-person protests,” which would authorize security agencies to end the demonstration of a single person if the protests constitute a nuisance in the area it is being held.
That, the bill states, might include an act that “obstructs the public or a section of the public in the exercise or enjoyment of a right that may be exercised or enjoyed by the public at large.”
Sarah Everard went missing on March 3 after leaving a friend’s house in the evening. Her body was found almost two weeks later, and though an investigation was ordered into the policing of the vigil, there’s the general public outcry over the violence, harassment and intimidation that women face, including at the hands of police.
On Saturday, thousands of people gathered to protest around where she had been last seen, both to grieve and highlight the treatment of women. As the demonstration carried on, arguments broke out with police, who were demanding that attendees disperse due to coronavirus restrictions. Later, officers were filmed and photographed physically dragging people away and into police vans.