Protests

England Gave Police Temporary Power During COVID-19 To Shut Down Protests. Now British Cops Want to Keep It.

Cracking down on protesters angry about police violence doesn't exactly inspire civic trust.

|

British officials used 2020's COVID-19 lockdowns as an excuse to essentially legally ban protests. After a recent spate of mass arrests, Parliament is considering a new crime bill that would permanently grant police greater authority to restrict and shut down protests entirely.

The protests are a response to the death of Sarah Everard in March. A week after she disappeared in South London, Everard's body was found and London Police Constable Wayne Couzens was arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering her.

Everard's death prompted public vigils that turned violent because police attempted to shut them down. The police said the protests violated COVID-19 lockdown rules Parliament passed a year ago. When Parliament was considering the "temporary" law (scare quotes because it actually lasts for two years before sunsetting), civil rights organization Big Brother Watch warned, "It contains sweeping powers to shut down even political assemblies, which could thwart the possibility of public protest against this power grab in the months ahead."

The group was proven right when British police used COVID-19 as an excuse to shut down a vigil to memorialize a woman whose death has been attributed to a police officer. A subsequent anti-lockdown protest in London this past weekend led to even more arrests.

The proposed policing and sentencing bill would, in part, grant police greater authority to shut down protests. They can do so now if they believe a protest will cause property harm or serious disruption to people's lives. The new law would empower police to intervene when a protest is noisy enough to cause "intimidation or harassment" or "serious unease, alarm, or distress" to bystanders. Call it the Pearlclutcher's Veto.

Current law allows police to arrest only those who knowingly commit an offense. The new law would allow police to arrest people that "ought to have known" they were breaking the rules, a provision that seems ripe for abuse. And lest people attempt to argue that this is all about keeping big protests from getting out of hand, the bill specifically states that these new powers could be exercised against one-person protests.

Emmanuelle Andrews, policy and campaigns officer at British civil rights organization Liberty, blasted the effort to clamp down on the right to protest in The Guardian:

Police already have extensive powers to restrict protests, and frequently go beyond them even though it is their duty to facilitate the exercise of this right.

We are still in the grip of a pandemic that has changed all our lives, handed enormous powers to the government and dramatically restricted our protest rights. The proposals in the policing bill are an opportunistic bid from the government to permanently erode our rights.

A few women have noted that the police are responding to Everard's death by suggesting that the best preventative is to put more police in bars and public places, where they can monitor women for their own safety. Yet The New York Times notes that the number of police around women seems to contribute to the problem, not fix it. More than 500 London police officers were accused of sexual assault between 2012 and 2018, but only 43 of them faced disciplinary proceedings. Accusations, of course, don't and shouldn't imply guilt. The point is that the police response to law enforcement behaving violently toward women seems deliberately oblivious.

There's a lot more to this proposed law than a crackdown on protests. It also increases prison sentences for some crimes, introduces new mandatory minimum sentences, reduces the youngest age at which a person can be sentenced to life in prison from 20 to 18, allows more demands and curfews to be placed on people on parole, and allows government officials to intervene to stop a prisoner from automatic parole release if they believe the person's release is a threat to the public. The law would also expand the use of the junk science of polygraph testing for domestic abusers and sex offenders.

While police argue for more authority to control the public, England's political leaders are bemoaning the extremely poor clearance rate for crimes. Data from 2019 shows that in only 8 percent of reported crimes was a suspect actually charged; in 45 percent of the cases, police weren't able to even identify a suspect. Law enforcement agencies in England have yet to explain how stiffer penalties and even more surveillance in one of the most surveilled countries in the world will close those gaps.

NEXT: States Should Choose Tax Cuts Over Federal Bailouts

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Ginger bias is the worst.

    1. Ginger Baker was the best.

      1. Keith Moon and Bonzo shake their heads at you.

        1. Making money online more than 15$ just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than DS ET regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info
          on this page…..VISIT HERE

    2. Only if you assume gingers have souls

    3. I am a Maryanne guy myself.

  2. America is great, if you’re a leftie you can literally riot, set fires, assault and even murder people because that is called protesting.

    All Kamala will do is giggle like the Joker as she watches the flames get higher and higher.

  3. “Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program”

    – Milton Friedman

  4. “We are still in the grip of a pandemic that has changed all our lives, handed enormous powers to the government and dramatically restricted our protest rights.”

    I guess the pandemic has been spending too much time with guns.
    Now, like guns can kill people on their own, the pandemic can magically hand power to the government on its own. Not sure about Great Britain, but here in the USA, it was fascist politicians who took ‘enormous powers’ and ‘dramatically restricted our protest rights’.

    1. That pisses me off so much. No, the fucking virus didn’t do this. People (politicians) made the choice. It is not the inevitable consequence of a pandemic.

  5. Data from 2019 shows that in only 8 percent of reported crimes was a suspect actually charged; in 45 percent of the cases, police weren’t able to even identify a suspect.

    I expect this includes all crime, not just murder, but I wonder how it affects crime reporting. It is my understanding that a dead body does not count as murder until they have a conviction, which is one reason for Britain having such a lower murder rate than the US. I have also seen statistics for violent crimes which show every EU country has at least 3-4 times the US rate, and Britain, I think, was 5 times as high. If they follow the same procedure in not counting a crime until they have a conviction, it must be a really terrible place. Of course, what counts as a violent crime can also differ from country to country, but the general high levels in every EU country was startling.

    1. Do you remember where you found the statistic? It would be interesting to compare the ‘true crime rate’ versus what they actually say(and it would be even more proof that govt is manipulating statistics for its own benefits).

      1. No. Might have been the grand old Daily Mail, they have lots of USA Today-style graphics, and I used to follow fark and their links to the Daily Mail, but haven’t been on fark for some time, what with half their links being to people who didn’t wear masks and got COVID.

        Wikipedia has a useless article, but I know I have seen articles on there with nice tables, sortable by column etc. My google-fu is weak right now.

  6. I don’t think I can call it “Great Britain” anymore.

    1. Fair to Middling Britain?

      1. No, West Pakistan

        1. Didn’t LOL, but you got an involuntary snort with that line. Yeah, Rotherham is going to take awhile to live down. If they ever choose to.

          Did anyone else read Shackford’s headline and say to themselves, “No shit.”?

    2. The “Great” just means it’s bigger than Ireland.

      1. Or Brittany. I guess that’s what was called “Lesser Britain”

  7. An autocracy, if you can keep it.

  8. How unusual! Don’t people in power usually relish giving it up?
    (sarc)

  9. England swings like pendulum do.
    Bobbies on bicycles, two by two.

    1. Step 2. Stomp on the 4th and 2nd Amendment.
      Step 1. Pack the court.

    2. “Community caretaking” exception. I hope Sotomayor smacks this down hard, and gets to write the majority opinion. She’s often not bad on 4th Amendment issues, and this is crying for the touch of someone whose actually dealt with criminal law cases other than on the bench.

      I’m probably an optimist. What a garbage case, and it made it this far.

  10. https://twitter.com/axios/status/1374713861861949441?s=19

    Biden recently held an undisclosed East Room session with historians and discussed how big is too big to jam through once-in-a-lifetime historic changes.

    Their views were in sync with his own: It is time to go even bigger and faster than anyone expected.

    1. What did Chavez do, his first term? That’s at least a comp.

      We’re in such deep shit. He can’t last that long, and when he’s shuffled off, Harris is going to feel obligated to flex nuts. The problem with that is, both her and her advisers are wholly unsuited to do such things.

      Show of hands: who’s comfy with Austin and Rice running brinksmanship against Russia or (God forbid) China? Not that China doesn’t need to be stood up to; it’s just that I know these people will fuck it up. And ‘fucking it up’ takes on a grave undertone when the opponent acts like a spoiled child, driven by ego, and has a shitton of nukes and surplus young men.

  11. They laughed at us when we said we’d save them. I’m not sure we should.

    1. Oh can’t wait for the necklacing of the innocent to begin.

    2. Move. Move now. It’s not like it’s going to get better.

      Christ! How did things get this bad, this fast?!

  12. https://twitter.com/RealMattCouch/status/1374818816878858256?s=19

    BREAKING NEWS: The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has ruled that there is no right to carry – either openly or concealed in public…

    This ruling impacts RTC laws in AK, HI, CA, AZ, OR, WA, & MT

    1. any sources other than twitter none of the news feeds are showing this or maybe they don’t want to show it.

      second time today I thought I better get another gun.

        1. thanks I also found it through twitter at Los Angeles Times

        2. The dissents are lengthy. This isn’t stopping here.

    1. it is not illegal to work together to protest.

  13. The proposed policing and sentencing bill would, in part, grant police greater authority to shut down protests. They can do so now if they believe a protest will cause property harm or serious disruption to people’s lives.

    “Sorry, blokes, but I believe your protest will cause serious disruption to me life.”

  14. they got a little taste of “power” and now want to keep it! so what will they want next? guns, tanks, powered battle armor……

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.