‘Defend Human Rights’: Extinction Rebellion and Kill the Bill call on House of Lords to reject Public Order Bill
January 30, 2023 by Extinction Rebellion
At 5pm today, crowds gathered outside Parliament as “draconian” anti-protest laws in the Public Order Bill reached a crucial stage in the House of Lords.
Twelve protesters from Extinction Rebellion disrupted proceedings from the public viewing platform in the Peers Chamber during the debate, wearing T-shirts printed with the words: ‘Defend Human Rights’. No one was arrested.
Attending the debate, Marion Malcher, 67, from Woking said: “This draconian legislation severely infringes on our human right to peacefully protest. Never in my lifetime have I seen the government push through such oppressive laws with such a low threshold for criminality.”
Biologist Alex Penson, 39, from London said: “I’m terrified that the government is rapidly shutting down all ways to hold it to account, especially on issues of inequality and the climate and the ecological emergency. The right to protest and the right to strike is crucial for a free and sustainable society.”
Jane Leggett, 72, from London, said: “I spent 35 years mainly teaching English to 16-19 year-olds in Hackney and Islington. Only the dystopian, post-apocalyptic literature we studied could describe the society young people can look forward to as envisioned by this vicious Tory Public Order Bill, and by successive governments’ inaction on effectively addressing the climate and ecological emergency.”
Introduced by the former Home Secretary, Priti Patel, in May 2022, the Public Order Bill is widely criticised by campaigners, lawyers, the policing inspectorate (HMICFRS), and the police and the Home Office themselves for threatening civil liberties in the UK.
New measures called Serious Disruption Prevention Orders (SDPOs) are alarmingly far-reaching, with reduced thresholds and legal standards. Clause 20 would allow a lower, civil standard of proof to be used to impose criminal sanctions on individuals who have not even been convicted of an offence.
Clauses 10 and 11 of the Bill could exacerbate police racism with expanded stop and search powers. Previously reserved for protecting against only the most serious violence and acts of terrorism, these powers would now apply to non-violent, (currently) legal activities.
People of colour are at least nine times more likely to face Stop and Searches than white people. Fifteen per cent of these are conducted without reasonable grounds for suspicion. With less than 3% of Stop and Searches resulting in arrests, it is clear that officers are already abusing their powers.
Anyone could be stopped and searched without suspicion, for being in any way associated with protest or carrying a vast array of everyday items, like bike locks or glue.
The threshold for applying these powers is so low that it could capture nearly anyone – not only peaceful protesters but unknowing passers by. It would mean so many more people will be exposed to this invasive, often traumatic experience, where police are empowered to use force.
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Time has almost entirely run out to address the ecological crisis which is upon us, including the 6th mass species extinction, global pollution, and increasingly rapid climate change. If urgent and radical action isn’t taken, we’re heading towards 4˚C warming, and the societal collapse and mass loss of life that that implies. The younger generation, racially marginalised communities and the Global South are on the front-line. No-one will escape the devastating impacts.
Extinction Rebellion believes it is a citizen’s duty to rebel, using peaceful civil disobedience, when faced with criminal inactivity by their Government.
Extinction Rebellion’s key demands are:
- Government must tell the truth by declaring a climate and ecological emergency, working with other institutions to communicate the urgency for change.
- Government must act now to halt biodiversity loss and reduce greenhouse gas emissions to net zero by 2025.
- Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.