The Socialist 31 March 2021 |
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Defending the right to protest
Our voices will be heard
Bristol. Photo: Mike Luff (Click to enlarge)
All over the country young people have taken to the streets in their thousands to defend the right to protest and voice their opposition to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Here we print a few reports from the most recent protests.
Crashing riot shields and truncheons on top of protestors who were sat down, chanting 'peaceful protest', showed the powers the police already have. Unlike the overnight tent camp three days before, where 200 people were attacked, this time (Friday 26 March) the thuggery has been recorded by many filmmakers. They, along with journalists, were also viciously attacked, pushed to the ground and their equipment smashed.
Earlier, around 3,000 young people assembled on College Green, outside the cathedral. This time police had full body armour, truncheons and handcuffs, nervously walking around in groups of three. Police vans, horses and dogs (used later) were nearby.
Our 1,000 leaflets were soon gone. So too, the placards with Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition election posters on one side and the Socialist Party's 'Defend the Right to Protest' on the other. Most other placards were handmade. Trade union banners and flags have mostly yet to appear.
The march went around the city and some protesters began sitting opposite the rows of riot police by the police station. The numbers sat down grew during the evening. At about 10pm, the police moved forward treading on protesters, pushing those stood up who had their hands in the air and making arrests, and using dogs to move people back.
The pandemic ban on protests has now ended, and so the next one is likely to be even larger.
About 150 people gathered in Plymouth on Sunday 21 March for a socially distanced 'Kill the Bill' protest, which was entirely peaceful. The police did not interfere, even though the protest was right outside the police station.
I am quite new to politics, so engaging head on in this protest, trying to sell the Socialist newspaper, was a new experience for me.
I managed to interview quite a few people. One quote that really stood out to me was: "I'm fed up of not being heard." This Tory government is trying to silence those of us that have the bravery to speak up.
Speaking to people at the protest, the general consensus was that protest is the cornerstone of democracy. It was clear that should the government continue to push the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill through, it will be met with increasing opposition.
The 'Kill the Bill' protest in York on 25 March marked the first of what will be numerous regular protests occurring every Thursday.
The protest began with speeches from survivors of sexual assault. This was followed by performances from local musicians, and then an open mic.
Iain Dalton, Yorkshire Socialist Party organiser, spoke on the need for a mass organisation of the working class to fight the Tories. I spoke about the need for socialism and how change will only come from a mass movement from below. Both speeches were met with thunderous applause.
It was heart-warming when the crowd broke out into 'Solidarity Forever' by Pete Seeger, a left-wing anthem.
Overall, there was not a single speech made that was solely about the bill: the topics ranged from gender violence to the situation in Rojava. The one common thread that ran through them all was disgust for the Tories and the police.
"No justice, no peace, no racist police". "This is what democracy looks like".
On Saturday 27 March, 1,000 marched through the streets of Sheffield city centre, united against the police bill.
Through their joint effort, protesters were able to block the traffic outside the police station and the Peace Gardens, by sitting down peacefully, gaining a sense of empowerment. Fortunately, we saw little to no interference or presence of the police, and in turn the city was shown a peaceful, but firm stance against the Tory party's authoritarian measures.
14 members of the Sheffield Socialist Party branch collectively distributed leaflets, engaged with the many young people and subsequently met lots of potential new members.
This event was just one of many demonstrations throughout the country, showing the lack of faith and trust in the Tory government and the political system they represent, as well as the necessity for change.