Bristol National Education Union members joining protest against the Police Bill, 5 July
Protests against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (“Police Crackdown Bill”) began again in the week of 5 July, but the Tories have rammed it through the final stage of its passage in the House of Commons. It now goes to the House of Lords.
The Bill passed its third reading in the Commons 365-265. The government rushed through the report stage and the third reading in a single day, prompting complaints even from some Tory MPs.
The might be amendments in the Lords, but to significantly change the shape of the Bill, let alone force its withdrawal, will require many more and bigger protests.
A series of big, lively demonstrations earlier this year fizzled out, and ones this week have been relatively small, hundreds in a few places rather than thousands in many as before.
Gypsy, Roma and Traveller campaigners, whose communities the Bill specifically targets in addition to the general powers of repression and harassment it hands to the police, deserve praise for taking the lead in restarting protests. They rallied again in Parliament Square at 1pm on Wednesday 7 July.
The Labour Party bears a large responsibility for the failure of the anti-Bill movement, so far, to mount further. After flirting with abstaining in the early parliamentary stages, street protests pushed it into voting against. But is done nothing to mobilise people, not even made a public call or advertised protests.
While mobilising on the streets through every channel available, and organising locally to build up the Kill the Bill movement, we need to push labour movement organisations at every level to promote, build and mobilise for the struggle.
We should aim to force the Bill’s withdrawal or amendment. Even if we fail in those things, a strong movement that continues to assert the right to protest can, in doing so, make the law unworkable.
We must also argue, particularly in the Labour Party, for a clear commitment to repeal the Bill if it becomes law. And for repeal of older laws and parts of laws which have long restricted the right to protest, organise and strike – the foundation on which the Police Bill builds.
Continue and build up the struggle!