‘Criminalizing our right to protest’: Green groups’ anger at the Public Order Act | environmental activism – Advice Eating

Environmental campaign groups have spoken out against the “draconian” anti-protest bill announced in the Queen’s speech.

The new law appears to be targeting groups like Extinction Rebellion, Just Stop Oil and Insulate Britain, which have used disruptive methods to draw attention to the climate crisis.

Announcing the law, Priti Patel said: “As set out in the Queen’s speech, the Public Order Act provides support to the police to prevent anti-social protests from disrupting people’s lives.” The Home Secretary welcomed the “new crimes for the ‘Lockdowns’ and disruption of national infrastructure and orders to prevent serious disruption to repeat offenders”.

The new criminalization of “locking on” targets protesters by handcuffing them or taping them to infrastructure, a popular tactic used by green protest groups. Insulate Britain protesters made headlines last year after taped themselves to main roads, and members of Extinction Rebellion have previously handcuffed themselves and taped themselves to trains, causing disruption.

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Persons equipped to confine themselves or others to buildings, roads or printing presses also commit an offense under the new law. Extinction Rebellion members have previously targeted printing presses and delayed deliveries of national newspapers including the Telegraph, Times and Sun.

Many have pointed out that progressive gains such as women’s suffrage, the legalization of unions and the decriminalization of same-sex relationships are among the laws that probably would not have happened without the kind of protest that the government wants the government to declare illegal.

Protester Gemma Rogers, 49, an NHS worker, founded local campaign group Steve Baker Watch. She and other members are campaigning to ask their MP to leave the Global Warming Policy Foundation, an anti-climate think tank.

She told the Guardian: “The proposed new powers in the bill, similar to those recently rejected by the House of Lords, are unnecessary and undemocratic. The reason the environmental movement is making such a fuss is because there is a massive problem that we are not addressing. It’s just crazy to lock up those who sound the alarm.”

James Miller, co-founder of green protest group Writers Rebel, added: “The draconian new public order law won’t stop us from protesting because the climate crisis isn’t going away – it’s only going to get worse.

“Our government has chosen to prioritize the short-term profits of its fossil fuel industry supporters and right-wing media over the long-term interests of the people. Obviously this policy will be unpopular because it is reckless, harmful and wrong, and that is why the government is criminalizing our right to protest.”

Greenpeace said the government had the wrong priorities and that it should not criminalize those who highlighted the climate crisis.

Greenpeace UK political activist Megan Randles said: “The right to protest is one of the safety valves of our democracy. It enables ordinary people to protect their health, families and homes from harm when all other safeguards have failed. The government’s attempt to criminalize peaceful dissent threatens everyone’s right to stand up for what they believe. Time and time again, it’s activism that has pushed a reluctant British government to grapple with vital issues, be it the climate crisis or women’s rights.

“Ministers who love to talk about freedoms around every corner should reconsider this attack on one of the most fundamental freedoms we have.”

A spokesman for Insulate Britain said: “While the government continues the process of criminalizing ordinary people, the criminals in charge of our government are on a mission to destroy this country. The granting of 41 new oil and gas licenses is an act of war against the poor of the Global South and the people here in the UK. The new laws do not change that. How many will be locked up before we realize there is a problem that society needs to address?”

A police officer dissolves the glue on the hand of an Insulate Britain protester during the demonstration outside Parliament in 2021.
A police officer dissolves the glue on the hand of an Insulate Britain protester during the demonstration outside Parliament in 2021. Photo: Thomas Krych/Sopa Images/Rex/Shutterstock

The demonstrators hope there is enough opposition in parliament to prevent the bill from passing, or at least being watered down.

Some MEPs have already spoken out against it. Green MP Caroline Lucas vowed to work with other parties to thwart the legislation.

This is not a public policy bill – it is a public repression bill. Will work bipartisan again to defeat. Our right to peaceful protest should be protected and not attacked. Shame on the government for bringing back these dangerous proposals #QueensSpeech https://t.co/w4asVeSpFd

— Caroline Lucas (@CarolineLucas) May 10, 2022

SNP MP Peter Grant added: “Q – What do women’s suffrage, abolition of slavery, legalization of unions and decriminalization of same-sex relationships have in common? A – None of them would have happened if people hadn’t protested in a way that the Tories want to make illegal.”

Labor MP Jon Trickett said: “The Tories plan to further restrict the right to protest with a new Public Order Bill. Instead of fighting injustice, they suppress dissent.”

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