We noisily protest

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The right to peaceful protest is a cornerstone of liberal democracy, says Labour’s Pat Osborne

Labour Pat Osborne
Labour Pat Osborne

Last month I wrote about the inadequacy of the government’s response to a cost-of-living crisis caused largely by 12 years of Tory economic policy – designed to deliver super-profits for millionaires at the expense of ordinary working people. On the 18 June I joined tens of thousands of trade unionists from up and down the country at the TUC’s march and rally in London to demand better.
Despite a justifiable underlying anger towards a Government that is clearly letting us down, the protest was conducted peacefully and in a carnival-like atmosphere. Protestors showed their solidarity with other working people devastated by the cost-of-living crisis by adding to a soundscape of drums, whistles, music and chants as we marched two miles from Portland Place to Parliament Square.
Just 10 days later, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act came into effect, effectively banning ‘noisy protest’. Within 10 hours, anti-Brexit protestor Steve Bray was the Act’s first scalp when police swooped to confiscate his speakers.
Whether or not we agree with Mr Bray’s King Canute-like position on Brexit is beside the point. Peaceful protest is a cornerstone of any liberal democracy and Mr Bray should have the right to engage in it. It is worrying therefore – though entirely foreseeable – that the police should move so quickly to enforce Priti Patel’s hard line anti-protest laws in such a heavy-handed way.
With the promise of a summer of discontent ahead of us, it is likely that these draconian powers and other anti-trade union instruments will be exercised repeatedly in order to mute a growing choir of dissenting voices. By Autumn this could reveal a country with more in common with Putin’s autocratic Russia than the liberal democracies of Western Europe.

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