The IWGB stands in solidarity with women and their allies who gathered to exercise their right to protest in memory of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common at the weekend. Our thoughts are with the family of Sarah Everard at this time.
It is our belief that the right to protest, which is a human right, is fundamental to a functioning democracy. Moreover, it is apparent from multiple reports that, until the police intervened, the unofficial gathering was peaceful and socially-distanced. The prevailing mood, according to eyewitness accounts, was ‘peaceful and sombre.’
Regardless of the legal position on gatherings, there was no justification for the heavy-handed police response that followed. We utterly condemn the police violence against protesters and mourners at this event. Women should be safe to go about their daily lives, whether they are walking home alone or exercising their democratic rights in a public park.
We call for an independent investigation into the conduct of the police at that event and at other protest events that have taken place since extraordinary Covid-19 restrictions were invoked.
This incident did not take place in isolation. The police response comes amid a politically-led erosion of the rights of people in the UK to exercise their democratic freedoms, not only during the extraordinary time we have been in since March 2020, but prior to that and going forward. The IWGB has witnessed many disproportionate attempts to undermine protesters’ freedom over the last decade. This trend is deeply concerning.
We therefore call for the forthcoming Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which will make nonviolent protest a criminal offence, to be scrapped in its entirety. It is a poorly-drafted and dangerous piece of legislation that criminalises those causing ‘serious annoyance’ and ‘serious inconvenience’, essentially making it virtually impossible for any form of protest to take place.
This is an unnecessary attack on democracy and human rights in this country, which will destroy the ability of ordinary people to exercise their democratic rights and freedoms, such as picketing, protesting and marching. We join others in calling for protections to be introduced that will permanently safeguard the rights of all people to protest in order to assert their rights and human dignity.
Fran Scaife, IWGB Women and Non-Binary Officer
Henry Chango Lopez, IWGB General Secretary
15th March 2021
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