#KillTheBill protest in Manchester

Ellis Garvey, is a member of the YCL’s Manchester branch

One this day a sizable protest took place through the streets of Manchester. The cries of the demonstrators were “kill the bill” targeted at the new government’s recent white paper: Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill 2021. It became clear that this demonstration emphasized the multifaceted mass consciousness from its wide range of speakers ranging from those talking about endemic sexism and racism to the importance of our civil right to protest.  Many experiences were shared showing that the fabrications made by the ironically timed report by the Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities washing the blood-stained hands of the systemic racism that exists within the Tory state apparatus.

Those in opposition to the bill have emphasized the fact that it is the next step in the brutal crushing of trade unions and the labour movement.  The law criminalises “inconveniencing” businesses – in other words, it effectively outlaws strikes that it either disagrees with or has wide support. This protects the horrific practices of business interests whether it be arms deals, participating in neo-colonialism, or brutal treatment of workers from being properly opposed as they should be.

Priti Patel, the MP behind the new infamous act is also on record for stating that the BLM and XR protesters were nothing more than ‘hooligans’ and soon to be ‘criminals’. This is seen by the deliberate attempt to red scare even the most moderate movements with Boris Johnson pushing to investigate left-wing ‘extremists’ in these organisations. Delegitimising genuine working-class opposition shows the sinister nature behind this bill.

Furthermore take, for instance, how the bill leaves deliberately vague the idea of a ‘noisy’ protest. This will criminalise all protests as there is no standard for this and is in violation of the rights to assembly. This gives the police, who have a vested interest in crushing ‘civil unrest’, a free card to shut down any protest they see as harming what they would consider the ‘civil society’. This is another in the long atomisation and neoliberalisation of society where the working-class must be ashamed of their right to protest and of their history of rebellion. A fear that pushed former Prime Minister, Theresa May, to bring out the infamous policy of the ‘hostile environment’. With a Tory majority, wherein their interests align with reactionary police, they will be able to push whatever law they want through.

Now that the basic human right of assembly has been taken away by giving the policy powers which are subjective to how they think society should look. Any particularly controversial policy with significant opposition could be easily curtailed and banned, and totally delegitimised.

Such is the subjective language because ‘sir’ David Amess, the Conservative MP for Southend West provides a pathetic justification by stating that: “My office looks over Parliament Square. I have long complained about the endless demonstrations that take place … It is very difficult to work because of the noise—the drums, horns and loudspeakers … our work should not be disrupted”. This statement just reveals the extent to which the Tories have a real fear, haunted likely by the memories of the poll tax and the Iraq War, of an opposition they see that they must ‘tame’.

As the mask of liberal democracy slips the demonstration in Manchester today brought to light the totally lackluster opposition of ‘sir’ (don’t laugh!) Kier Starmer. The Labour Party has taken no direct interest, support, or even involvement in the protests as it begs for concessions as the Bill enters the committee stage.

Starmer’s Labour Party has even at times condemned the protests and refuses to show solidarity with those on the ground, Starmer’s clear and deliberate attempt to transform Labour into a full establishment liberal party has never been any clearer. The Shadow Home Secretary made it clear that if it were up to the Labour Party there would be ‘more police in the street’.

At the protest, I interviewed a socialist demonstrator named Sean. He responded to a few questions I asked. Sean who just a few days beforehand he was manhandled and arrested by the police at a peaceful demonstration, showing the grim reality of the situation. I asked him three key questions:

Ellis: What do you think is the worst part of the bill?

Sean: I think the bill will give the government the power to choose which protests are the ‘good protest‘ versus the ‘bad protests.’ They can prevent any protest from happening pretty much at their will and obviously the ones that matter the most will be shut down.

Ellis: What do you think you should draw attention to at this protest

Sean: The effect this bill has on traveling communities should be getting more attention. It threatens to take away these already marginalised people’s way of life. They can block a group of travellers from entering an area pretty much arbitrarily at this point.

Ellis: How was it at the last protest where you got arrested?

Sean: I think something really telling, but not surprising was when I asked the policemen in the van with me what their opinions were of our protest and the bill itself. One of them turned around and told me “I don’t actually know what you were protesting about, I don’t keep up with the news or politics or anything.” These cops are so apolitical, and disinterested in the demands of the people, that they willingly arrest 18 people (including several minors) at a peaceful protest that they have no idea about. There was no violence, no confrontations, just a group largely young people singing and dancing and speaking their voice and their concerns about our future

If we are being silenced like this now, then I can’t begin to imagine the state of protest in the UK when the bill passes. I think the people of the UK have a long summer ahead of them. Get out to these protests and speak your voice while you still can.

Ellis Garvey