Has the Kill the Bill campaign come back to life? The rapid proliferation of protests across the country yesterday against the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill suggests that may well be the case. There have been more than twenty protests across the country, some with only a few dozen but with thousands on the streets of London and Manchester.
Towards the end of last year, the campaign seemed to have run out of steam, mired in an overly complicated organizational structure, with seemingly only one tactic (walking from A to B with speakers) up its sleeve. Repetition led to boredom, dwindling numbers, and eventual near cessation of activity. Only a few hundred made it to third reading in the House of Lords.
However, the recent wave of revulsion at the Conservative ‘one law for us, one law for you’ government and recognition that Starmer Labor is certainly not coming to the rescue has brought people back to the streets. There is also an urgency as the law must go through its final stages and be ready for Royal Assent as early as April.
Cynically, the bill, already draconian in its criminalization of trespassing and protesting and a host of other twists and turns, features a number of amendments, such as making lockdown specifically a new imprisonable offence. Most sinister of all is the creation of Serious Disruption Prevention Orders, which allow courts to impose conditions, such as curfews or internet use orders, on the lives of those whom the state sees as an inconvenience or a threat.
Also to be welcomed is the new emphasis on the dual threat of the Nationalities and Borders Bill, with its clauses attacking migrants, criminalizing rescue at sea and giving the Home Secretary the power to withdraw the citizenship to millions of people.
There is some hope that this movement will become the vehicle to challenge the UK’s transformation into an autocracy. It will have to go beyond marches and petitions and above all develop much more, but the situation is more encouraging than it was before Christmas.
For more thoughts on what’s possible next, take a look here.
Image: Yesterday’s protest in Bristol, by Bristol Defendant Solidarity.