So Bristol heads for it’s 3rd protest in a week this afternoon, according to this flyer (see left) circulated on social media. Once again it appears to be organised, by everybody, and nobody – and everybody needs to know about it. Once again the focus of the protest is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill or the #PoliceCrackdownBill as many call it. And crackdown it is – a deliberate assualt on our hard won rights to protest, assemble, and exercise our very basic human rights…against an increasingly authoritarian Government that acts solely in the interests of it own rich & powerful class. See this NetPol article on the new Bill.
The Policing elements of the Bill give the police extensive new powers to limit & control any protest/demo, however peacefull and fluffy it may be, and however many people may be expected, from 1 to 1 million. It further increases the requirements on any organisers to both agree everything in advance with the police, and face extensive punushment if they don’t, or if anything goes wrong.
The police already have more than enough powers to deal with any form of protest, however peaceful or not it may be. But with this Bill they are explicitly targetting ‘peaceful protests’ that over the last few years have won mass support – especially on the issues of Black Lives Matter and climate change. The new punitive elements of this Bill are intended to ensure that NO protest can go ahead without the police’s, and therefore the Government’s, say so. It will render protesting ineffective & disempowering. It is designed to keep people off the streets and compliant, sitting at home signing online petitions and writing to MP’s (as it seems XR Bristol have been scared into doing?). Nothing wrong with that of course, it is a part of the spectrum of protest. But when the Government has an 80 seat majority, after winning less than 30% of the total electorate’s votes, then sadly letters will not sway an ideologically driven Government.
Everyone to the streets! Again & again & again & again. Governments & the rich and powerful, will tolerate one protest, especially if it causes no disruption, and has no impact. What they hate, and will attempt to crush, are protests that happen again & again & again. To win – that is exactly what we need to do! And to win we need people to be protesting everywhere at the same time. We have seen in Bristol last Sunday & Tuesday, that the numbers of the local police cannot cope with large antagonistic protests (nor small entirely peaceful one’s in the case of Tuesday), and they had to call in back up from upto 7 other police forces. What if no back up was available, what if those other areas also faced protests? So well done to Cardiff for announcing this event today, the latest in a series of protests in that city & across south Wales challenging racism, police brutality, and Tory laws.
Whilst the often untold history of Britain is one of struggles against the ruling political, landowning & business elites, where everything we have, had to be fought for, and was never just given, much of that story is airbrushed from the prevailing historical narrative. The thousands & thousands of people who have been killed, imprisoned, beaten, injured, sacked over the last centuries can be all too easily forgotten – see the publications, projects & blogposts of Bristol Radical History Group for a snapshot of ourstory. And those very gains they fought & died for – the vote, the right to assemble, to join a union, to justice, to equality – can easily be taken for granted, as if they’ve always been there. But they haven’t, and now they’re being taken away again. So it’s back to the streets, to protest, to strike, to disrupt, to march, to fight back. Everyone to the streets!
We don’t believe in telling people how to protest. You choose your own path. Hopefully you learn as you go, and you may well change direction based on your experiences & understanding. But for the safety of yourself & other protesters around you, we strongly suggest: don’t attend demos under the influence of alcohol or drugs; wear PPE/larger mask & cover your head (hat or hood); carry water & snacks; be very careful what you take photos of & don’t post incriminating photos of other protesters to social media; ideally leave your mobile at home; beware any journalist livestreaming video footage, they probably don’t care about incriminating people (they just want the views, and money) – you are entitled to tell them not to film you; carry emergency cash for travel costs; go with a few friends & stick together; and know your rights – write a legal number on your arm or leg in case you need it. Take care & stay safe!
The following legal info has been circulated by Bristol Defendant Solidarity, they often also provide Legal Observers on protests, along with other organisations such as Black Protest Legal Support and GBC:
(all images internet scavenged!)