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Now is the time to act on the Policing Bill

Olivia Hanks outlines key action to take now to challenge the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Changes to legislation are possible when there is public pressure. Image: Ben Robinson
Changes to legislation are possible when there is public pressure. Image: Ben Robinson

The next few weeks are crucial in persuading MPs to challenge the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. Quakers in Britain will be lobbying on this at a national level, but we need your help to persuade your local MP to speak out against the bill.

The bill threatens the right to peaceful protest, and would increase prison sentences, fines, and police powers. The section on trespass would criminalise the way of life for nomadic Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities, and would limit access to the countryside.

We've teamed up with a wide range of other organisations trying to persuade the government to scrap the bill, or at least remove the worst bits of it, including part 3 (public order) and part 4 (unauthorised encampments).

The bill has just started its Committee Stage in the House of Commons. This is where a group of MPs examines it line by line, and takes evidence from experts. All MPs will then vote on it again in July, before it goes to the House of Lords.

This means the next few weeks are critical.

Ask your MP to speak out

In her recent blog, Grace Da Costa gave some advice for writing to your MP about the bill.

We're now working with Amnesty and Friends of the Earth to help people lobby their local MPs. You can find lots of useful advice in Friends of the Earth's campaign guide on the bill.

You can contact your local Amnesty and Friends of the Earth groups and ask if they'd like to work together. Get in touch with your MP, as a group, to ask for a meeting. Ask your MP to publicly oppose the clampdown on protest and the criminalisation of trespass and urge the government to scrap these parts of the bill.

Help build a movement against the bill

The bill would negatively affect some of the most marginalised communities in the UK. We all need to strengthen the movement against it and stand in solidarity with those who will be disproportionately affected by this bill, including people of colour and GRT communities. You could:

  • Reach out to local organisations or collectives of groups like Black Lives Matter or Sisters Uncut to see how you can amplify their voices and collaborate to oppose the bill.
  • Raise awareness on social media about the dangers of criminalising trespass and peaceful protest.
  • Put a poster or banner up outside your meeting house that can be seen by passers-by. Put a photo of it on social media and tag @BritishQuakers.
  • Sign petitions run by other organisations, such as NetPol's petition for a Charter for Freedom of Assembly Rights and Friends of the Earth's petition on protest and trespass.
  • Participate in peaceful protests about the bill where it is safe to do so. Find out more about the right to protest under the current Covid-19 regulations, see Friends of the Earth's guidance for England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the Scottish Government's guidance for Scotland.

There is hope

We recently saw with the Overseas Operations Act how it's possible to get changes to legislation when national lobbying is supported by pressure from the public, media and international bodies.

I'm hopeful that with your support, we can get the government to rethink its approach to protecting our fundamental freedoms.

Download the Policing Bill briefing for Quakers (Word)