After four years of disagreement over Brexit and a second referendum, campaigners have buried the hatchet to unite against the government’s plans to limit political protests. All signatories of the letter were able to conduct large scale demonstrations in London and across the UK peacefully and safely under existing legislation. However, under the new proposals, which change the boundaries defining the ‘controlled area’ of Parliament Square, neither side would have been able to hold the high-profile demonstrations and events in Parliament Square that shaped the Brexit debate.
Campaigners say that despite their “different political views”, they “stand shoulder to shoulder to defend our right to express these views”.
The letter reads:
"As long as laws are made in Parliament, then British people must have a legal right to protest them in Parliament Square. Democracy is not an ‘inconvenience’. Public opposition and dissent are among the hard-won rights that make our democratic system function.
This Bill seeks to silence British people when avenues to express dissatisfaction and opposition by members of the public are already limited. In a democracy, the role of government and the police should be to facilitate the organisation of demonstrations such that people are able to participate safely and legally whilst making their voices heard. This bill does precisely the opposite, and provides no route of appeal or challenge either in law or otherwise.
Seeking to limit noise levels so people cannot be heard, and preventing people from assembling outside Parliament so they cannot be seen - these are the words and actions of authoritarians.
Our organisations may have different political views, but we stand shoulder to shoulder to defend our right to express these views be it by peaceful political protest or other peaceful means.
We call on the government to withdraw this Bill in its entirety until such a time as the COVID-19 pandemic is over, and proper scrutiny of its contents and long-term implications can take place."
Signatories of the open letter include pro-Brexit campaigner Richard Tice, leader of the Reform UK party (formerly the Brexit Party) and Leave Means Leave, Naomi Smith, CEO of Best for Britain, Tom Brufatto, former lead organiser of the People’s Vote demonstrations and now co-director of March for Change and Anna Bird, CEO of the European Movement UK.
Dr. Meenal Viz, who also signed the letter, lead a one-person protest during the first lockdown of the UK COVID-19 pandemic which successfully forced the government to drop guidance which asked NHS staff to re-use Personal Protective Equipment. This type of one person protest could also be banned under the government’s new proposals.
Signatories of the letter agree that “the role of government and the police should be to facilitate the organisation of demonstrations such that people are able to participate safely and legally” while claiming the government’s proposals amount to “actions of authoritarians.”
Sign the petition here.
This was first published on the March for Change website.