August 17, 2021
From Young Communist League (Scotland)

The Young Communist League has issued a statement attacking the Tory Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and calling for broad resistance to this authoritarian attack on our civil liberties.

The YCL condemns the initial passing of the Conservative Government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill in the strongest possible terms.

The scenes of outrage and resistance seen across the country last week are a clear demonstration of the offensive nature of this anti-democratic Tory power grab and the fact that working people aren’t prepared to accept it.

The government have now conceded a delay on progressing the legislation through parliament, but this fight isn’t over. They have to be kept on the run and forced to abandon the legislation entirely.

This legislation seeks to further restrict the right to freedom of expression and protest by banning demonstrations in the area surrounding the parliamentary estate, increasing punishments for those caught defacing statues of up to 10 years imprisonment. In a literal silencing of protest, the legislation even farcically seeks to allow the police the power to introduce noise limits on public protests.

One of the most shocking changes associated with the Bill is that it will also become a crime to fail to follow restrictions the protesters “ought” to have known about, even if they have not received a direct order from the Police. The idea that this legislation is not open to abuse would be laughable if it wasn’t so dangerous to the civil liberties working people have won in Britain.

The Bill represents a grave threat to our right to protest and our right to freedom of expression generally. In the same week, as Metropolitan Police Officers overtly exerted their brute force against campaigners mourning the death of Sarah Everard, we are seeing yet another extension of the strong arm of the current authoritarian Tory Government.

We stand shoulder to shoulder with those unfairly targeted in Clapham Common last weekend, and we stand united with campaigners of all colours who are preparing to fight this corrupt Tory Government, trying to legislate its way out of scrutiny and mass extra-parliamentary opposition.

Not only does the Bill represent the worst aspects of the authoritarian ruling class in this country, its deliberate vagueness and ambiguous nature will undoubtedly be used to target socialist campaigners determined to call out the Government’s actions. The Bill, as it stands, would allow the police to act unilaterally with near unlimited discretion,

The Bill cannot be allowed to pass through Parliament unopposed, despite assurances from the Home Office that “The majority of protests … will be unaffected by these changes”, it is clear that this Government cannot be trusted. The harsh reality working people and the youth face is that, because of the Tory’s large majority it seems likely that the Bill will become law.

Our response must be one of mass protest, up and down the country in opposition to this draconian attempt to strip us of our most basic human rights. Together as the trade union and progressive movements – including environmentalists, peace campaigners, anti-fascists and those fighting for women’s liberation, all of who will be targeted under the bill – we must oppose and defeat this power grab, not just in Parliament but in the streets.

The ambiguity of the legislation surrounding its provisions on “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance” will see it used and abused at will by the police wanting to target certain protesters.

Public nuisance such as, blocking motorways with nuclear weapons, or occupying arms factories manufacturing weapons responsible for thousands of deaths, or the standing in the way of bulldozers looking to destroy sites of ecological or historical importance.

All of these acts are crucial tools in the arsenal of campaigners fighting for a better world and all of them are covered by pre-existing legislation.

With Britain already having some of the most oppressive anti-union laws in Europe, the new powers would undoubtedly be used to further curtail the rights of trade unionists and striking workers on picket lines.

It is easy to see how the newly emboldened police forces would step in to smash effective student protests and occupations.

In addition to condemning the Bill itself, the YCL also wishes to condemn the initial inaction from the Labour frontbenches who wanted to abstain on the vote, only having reverted their decision after the callous behaviour of the Metropolitan Police last weekend at the Clapham Common Vigil for Sarah Everard. This is nothing short of a disgrace and smacks of opportunism.

This Bill, in association with the Spycops Bill put to Parliament last year, represent some of the most egregious infringements on civil liberties and the rights of campaigners in this country. The only rules surrounding these Bills are that the police, undercover or in uniform, have to justify that their actions as necessary to deliver outcomes that are again defined in the loosest possible terms, including “to prevent disorder” or to maintain “economic wellbeing”.

Under this legislation protesters can be arrested and charged on grounds so vague that they are almost impossible to refute. It is important to highlight that this is not a result of poor legislative drafting, but a deliberate attempt to restrict campaigners capacity to oppose the Government and to fight them in the public sphere as we approach a heightened period of class struggle.

Britain’s young communists are calling for:

  • The immediate scrapping of both the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill and the Spycops Bill currently making their way through Parliament.
  • An apology for the families destroyed by Spycops in Britain and also in Ireland where British intelligence agents purposefully sought to tear communities apart.
  • A public enquiry into the violence against peaceful demonstrators at Clapham Common last weekend.
  • New legislation and further protections to defend the right to campaign and an end to political policing in Britain.

In comradeship

Executive Committee
Young Communist League

23 March 2021
London, Britain