Thousands of activists have descended on London as police brace for weekend of chaos with more rallies set to take place in towns and cities across the UK.
Protestors, including environmental protest group the Red Brigade – often seen at Extinction Rebellion demonstrations – have gathered at Hyde Park today chanting, banging drums and waving placards daubed with Kill The Bill slogans.
Close by, anti-lockdown demonstrators staged their own protest, supported by Piers Corbyn, brother of former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn.
And a separate group in Parliament Square were seen demonstrating with anti-sexism slogans, including ‘educate your sons’ and ‘misogyny is the virus’, before chanting ‘women scared everywhere, police and Government do not care’.
But the ‘national weekend of action’ has also spread beyond the capital to cities including Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester.
There have been a number of Kill The Bill protests held in recent weeks to show opposition to the Government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021, which would give police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed too noisy or a nuisance.
Protesting is now legal in England following a change in Covid-19 lockdown rules which came into force on Monday, but organisers are required to submit risk assessments and ensure social distancing.
Thousands of Kill the Bill activists have descended on London as police brace for weekend of chaos with more rallies set to take place in towns and cities across the UK. Pictured: Protestors in Parliament Square
Protestors, including environmental protest group the Red Brigade – often seen at Extinction Rebellion demonstrations – have gathered at Hyde Park today
A separate group in Parliament Square were demonstrating with anti-sexism slogans, including ‘educate your sons’ and ‘misogyny is the virus’
Protests and demonstrations were expected this weekend across England on what is forecast to be a is the first to benefit from the easing of ‘stay at home’ lockdown restrictions.
On Saturday, activists, climate change campaigners, and the Black Lives Matter movement said they would join ‘kill the bill’ rallies in London and other towns and cities including Manchester, Leeds, Brighton and Bristol.
‘As protest is criminalised and our fake democracy is pushed further towards authoritarianism, we seek to find where we can come together with other movements to tackle the common causes that affect us all,’ said Alanna Byrne from environmental group Extinction Rebellion.
Days of protests by the group paralysed parts of London in early 2019, action which helped fuel calls from some politicians for the police to be given the tougher powers to prevent excessive disruption.
Another demonstrator, Mark Duncan, added: ‘The government are trying to curtail protests – especially BLM and XR – that is what this bill is all about. We want the clauses in this bill about protests quashed.’
Organisers reminded demonstrators to stay socially distanced on this ‘national weekend of action’ as they attempted to control the crowds.
Protests and demonstrations were expected across England this weekend on what is forecast to be a is the first to benefit from the easing of ‘stay at home’ lockdown restrictions. Pictured: Protestors in London
There have been a number of ‘Kill The Bill’ protests held to show opposition to the Government’s proposed Police, Crime , Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021. Pictured: Crowds in central London today
The group that gathered in Parliament Square and chanted ‘women scared everywhere, police and Government do not care’ before several women addressed the crowds and shared their own personal experiences of suffering abuse and being drugged
But the ‘national weekend of action’ spread beyond the capital to cities including Newcastle, Liverpool and Manchester.
Several hundred people gathered beneath Grey’s Monument in Newcastle for a similar Kill the Bill protest with a low-key response from Northumbria Police.
Protesters cheered as a singer with a guitar performed in opposition to the proposed bill as another attendee held up a placard saying: ‘We will not be silenced.’
The crowd has since made its way through the city centre chanting: ‘Whose streets, our streets’ and ‘F*** Priti Patel’.
At the Civic Centre many took the knee and held a minute’s silence for victims of oppression after which a round of applause broke out.
Earlier today several hundred people gathered beneath Grey’s Monument in Newcastle (pictured) for a similar Kill the Bill protest
There was a low-key response to the city centre gathering from Northumbria Police and protesters cheered as a singer with a guitar performed in opposition to the proposed bill
The crowd (pictured) has since made its way through Newcastle city centre chanting: ‘Whose streets, our streets’ and ‘F*** Priti Patel’
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts bill would toughen measures officers can take to disperse demonstrations, such as imposing time and noise limits, which campaigners and activists fear would be used to curb dissent.
Since the bill was brought before parliament last month, there have been sporadic protests, notably in Bristol, southwest England, where demonstrations turned violent with officers and a police station bombarded with bricks and glass bottles, and police vehicles set on fire.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson criticised what he described as ‘disgraceful attacks’ on officers, but protesters have accused police of using heavy-handed tactics.
Demonstrations had not been permitted while a coronavirus lockdown was in place, but restrictions were eased this week, meaning organised rallies can go ahead providing they are ‘COVID secure’.
In London, police warned, ‘enforcement action will be taken, if needed, in the interests of public health’.
Some senior officers have said the ‘kill the bill’ tag was deliberately provocative as ‘the bill’ is a nickname in Britain for the police.
Can protests take place in England under Covid rules?
Britons are permitted to gather in groups larger than six for the purpose of ‘Covid-secure protests’ under updated lockdown rules.
The guidance had previously outlawed any large gatherings, meaning the previous three Bristol rallies weren’t permitted under Covid restrictions.
However, an update which came into force on Monday allows people to gather in larger groups for protest if the organiser has ‘taken the required precautions’.
This includes completing a risk assessment for the gathering.
The updated guidance reads: ‘You may gather in larger groups… for the purpose of Covid-secure protests or picketing where the organiser has taken the required precautions, including the completion of a risk assessment.’