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Campaigners block road outside Cambridge police station for national crime bill protest



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A noisy ‘Kill The Bill’ protest blocked Parkside in the centre of Cambridge this weekend as part of a national campaign to raise awareness of the takedown of human rights baked into the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Cambridge protesters on the streets
Cambridge protesters on the streets

Hundreds of people from across the East of England marched through the city before blocking the road outside the police station to protest against the bill, which imposes draconian restrictions on the right to protest in the UK, and criminalises the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller (GRT) communities. Groups and organisations taking part included Extinction Rebellion, Acorn, Stop the War, Unite, Cambridge Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Cambridge People’s Assembly.

Gathering at Great St Mary’s Church on King’s Parade on Saturday afternoon, the group listened to a speech before setting off on their march accompanied by a samba band. They marched through the city before reaching Parkside police station, at which point the majority of the march gathered on Parker’s Piece, while a number of protesters sat in the road outside the station. They held banners reading ‘Protest rights are human rights’, ‘Stop the Policing Bill’ and ‘Boris is allowed to party but you’re not allowed to protest’, with chants including ‘The power to protest will never be defeated’.

Road outside Parkside police station is blocked
Road outside Parkside police station is blocked

Protesters sat down in the road on Parkside, stopping traffic outside Parkside police station (which had a ‘closed’ sign on the door) at around 3pm. Speakers then addressed the crowd.

“We’re standing here today in solidarity with people around the country in support of defeating this bill,” said the first speaker. “We stand for human rights, an for the rights of the GRT community to exist in line with their communities and their histories.”

“These racist laws will affect so many of us, and our right to speak out – your right to freedom of speech, your right to live as you please. These rights are protected because you can make a fuss. If the bill passes, events like this will be targeted by the police and by the state, that’s why we’re here.

“One of the most important things we can do now is to work out how we’re going to respond if this bill goes through – how we can come together as a community and resist, so get CopWatch training if you haven’t already.”

Hannah Copley, Green councillor for Abbey ward, then reminded the crowd that the bill ushers in a “new era of despicable ethnic cleansing as part of an authoritarian police state”. She demanded that there is a “chronic shortage of sites for the GRT community in the UK, which amounts ti a deliberate racist attack on them”.

Protesters on Parker’s Piece
Protesters on Parker’s Piece

Last month, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was in the House of Lords where they were voting on amendments to sections including the ones concerning protest. The Lords voted to remove sections relating to Serious Disruption Prevention Orders, making “locking-on” an offence, and increasing stop-and-search laws – these cannot be added back in by the House of Commons, and therefore were significant wins for protest.

However, some amendments are likely to be voted back in by the House of Commons, where the Conservative government has a 77-seat majority. These include measures such as noise restrictions on demonstrations, which will effectively outlaw the right to protest in the UK. Other parts of the bill remain untouched, including clauses giving judges the power to impose prison sentences of up to 10 years for damaging statues such as that of slave trader Edward Colston, which was recently removed by protesters in Bristol. Protesters have just weeks left to raise the alarm about these draconian restrictions before the bill enters law.

Protesters block Parkside police station
Protesters block Parkside police station

Amelia Halls, 23, a postgraduate student, said: “We know that civil disobedience is how we get urgent social change – history has shown us that it’s the only way to get the government to listen and act. But how has the government responded to the uprising of civil resistance from groups including Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion? They have begun to yield the full force of the law against its people by pushing through the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts Bill.

“While energy prices rise, fossil fuel companies make huge profits. While the rich continue to avoid paying tax, we are forced to choose between food and warmth. And this bill will ban us from protesting all of these things. We cannot afford to let this happen. We must be out on the streets together stronger than ever, we must act in solidarity with each other, and we must be in open civil resistance against this government.”



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