Protesters call on Kemi Badenoch MP to oppose controversial crime bill
- Credit: Will Durrant
Protesters in Saffron Walden have called on Kemi Badenoch MP to oppose a proposed law which they say dampens their right to protest.
At a demonstration outside Mrs Badenoch's constituency office yesterday (January 12), protesters said that the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill erodes the right to protest.
Kemi Badenoch, a Conservative MP, has publicly supported the proposed legislation.
She and the Home Office believe that the wide-ranging bill will help to reduce disruptive behaviour.
The demonstration on Museum Street was organised by the Green and Liberal Democrat parties.
Trilby Roberts, Green organiser and town councillor, said: "My mother was 14 when women got the vote, and her mother was in her late 30s.
"In some places, women have only just got the vote through protest.
"Speaking as a female, it's really really important to have the right to protest."
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Cllr Roberts believes that the bill will curb that right.
She said: "We are in alarm and horror at the bill."
Protester Richard Westbrook said that he has attended demonstrations against the Iraq war in 2003, and against Brexit after 2016.
He said he feels like neither demonstration achieved their aims.
He said: "It's not bitterness, it's frustration.
"We do have the ability to say anything we want or print anything we want, and we have to cling on to that.
"We need more people out here to demonstrate that there is that sense of frustration in the general public - which I think there is, but most residents feel as if there's no point any more."
The bill is at report stage in the House of Lords, one of the final steps before it can become law.
Campaigners warn that Clause 56 of the bill could stop a noisy protest if somebody in the area feels "unease".
Police officers will also be able to stop a protest if it seriously disrupts an organisation or the public.
The Home Secretary will be able to decide on the definition of "serious disruption to an organisation".
In a statement, Amnesty International said: "This makes a mockery of the right to protest.
"The right to freedom of peaceful assembly requires that protesters are able to have a real opportunity to peacefully convey their message to the right people, group or organization and as a general rule should be facilitated within the 'sight and sound' of their target audience.
"But part of this bill could be used to only ‘allow’ protests far away from what they are protesting about."
Saffron Walden constituency MP Kemi Badenoch supported the bill when it was debated in the House of Commons.
She said: "There has been a great deal of misrepresentation of the bill on people's right to protest suggesting it removes that right, which is simply not true.
"This bill will introduce measures to stop seriously disruptive behaviour that impacts the public."
She said the bill will "give great police powers to tackle disruptive protests."
In a list, Mrs Badenoch wrote that the bill would: "Better protect women and children from domestic abuse.
"Strengthen support for our police and their families.
"End early release of dangerous offenders."
It will also give the police more powers to tackle hare coursing.
The Home Office said that protesters already face public nuisance offences in common law.
A statement reads: "We are introducing the offence in statute, and abolishing the common law offence.
"Any protesters found guilty of public nuisance are likely to face penalties in line with existing sentences for public order offences."
Start and finish times for static protests will be introduced to match rules for moving demonstrations.
The government cites violence during the Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in summer 2020 as one of its reasons for introducing new laws.