What are UK politicians saying about protests?
The author of this article chose to remain anonymous.
What is the right way to protest?
It’s been a common question, especially since Colin Kaepernick first took a knee during the national anthem. Every time people try to protest, those in power say it’s the wrong way.
And the running joke is that they will eliminate every possible option, to the point where the only logical conclusion is that we shouldn’t be protesting at all.
Here’s a conversation between Priti Patel and an LBC host in February 2021:
Priti Patel: I don’t support protests, and I also don’t support the protests that were associated with…
Radio Host: You don’t support protests?
Priti Patel: I didn’t support the protests.
Radio Host: Oh that protest. I thought you said you didn’t support protests at all.
Radio Host: Would you still take the knee, Home Secretary?
Priti Patel: No I wouldn’t. I would not. I would not have at the time either. There are other ways in which people can express their opinions. Protesting in the way in which people did last summer was not the right way at all. And I also think… You know, we saw statues being brought down. Mass dialogue… Well not quite mass dialogue. But some councils making quite frankly a stance around statues and street names. There are other ways in which those discussions can take place. And also, quite frankly I didn’t support that attempt to re-write our history. I thought that was wrong.
In a single interview, Priti Patel managed to condemn taking a knee, protesting in the street, expressing your views via local political representatives, mass dialogue, and pulling down the statues of slave traders.
All while still maintaining not once, but twice, that there are other ways to protest. A walking cliché of what I just described. But she’s not alone. Dominic Raab, our Foreign Secretary, a politician you would expect to have a deep understanding of international cultural issues, said he didn’t know where Taking a Knee came from, assuming it “seems to be taken from the Game of Thrones.”
In both cases, either they’ve managed to completely avoid hearing about discussions it’s their job to know about, or they’re knowingly trying to attack those who use their right to protest against them. And given how the Policing Bill is drafted, I’d lean towards the latter.
On the government website, which presents the Bill, the fact that “Police Service officers were assaulted by a violent minority during the BLM protests” was used as a reason for the bill. Unless this government needs a new law, fining noisy protesters £2,500, in order to arrest people who assault police officers, you know they’re lying to you.
The truth isn’t even hidden. The traditional libertarian Tories like David Davis and Steve Baker have pointed out that the noisy and annoying clauses undermine the fundamental right to protest and go against core conservative values of individual liberty. The DUP’s Gavin Robinson said that the anti-protest provisions in this bill “would make a dictator blush.” That said, all three men voted for it at Third Reading in Parliament.
So who’s currently fighting our corner? Well, every MP of every party, other than the Conservatives and DUP, voted against the Bill at Third Reading.
Labour MP David Lammy said that "by giving the police the discretion to use these powers some of the time, it takes away our freedoms ALL of the time." He highlighted that the Suffragettes would have been arrested had this law been in place. He went on to reference the arrests at the Sarah Everard vigil: “What about the images of police tackling a mourning woman to the ground [suggests] the police do not have enough [powers] as it stands?”
The Green Party’s Caroline Lucas called it, “an attack on civil liberties and a major extension of state power that is a threat to us all.” SNP leader Ian Blackford said the bill “should be withdrawn immediately.” The Lib Dems’ Daisy Cooper said it would be “giving police arbitrary and unnecessary powers against protesters”. Plaid Cymru’s Liz Saville Roberts said that the arrest at the vigil should be “a wake-up call to us all” in light of this bill.
Whether the right to protest survives 2021 depends on whether the Conservatives act like true conservatives and stand up for individual liberty against the overreach of the state… or whether they betray their party’s traditional values and just jump on Johnson’s command.
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