For eight weekends in a row people in Stoke-on-Trent have been holding protests every weekend against the government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The protests have been taking place outside Hanley bus station and usually end with a march through the town. Saturday 1st May – May Day – was the third national day of action called by the country-wide #KillTheBill network. Around 60 people gathered in Hanley to hear speeches and have a loud march which ended outside the Town Hall. All local protests have been socially distanced, with participants wearing masks and maintaining a message of safety.
The group in Stoke has been working under the name of the KTB Alliance Stoke and protests have had a hugely broad attendance, with representatives from groups and campaigns including Extinction Rebellion Stoke, BLM for Stoke, Speak – Outside the lines, Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC), North Staffs Trades Union Council, Stoke-on-Trent Animal Rights (S.T.A.R), Stop HS2 Staffordshire, SCANS CND and more. NorSCARF has been attending too and is in full support of the right to campaign against the Bill through protest. Have a look at this great video put together by local film makers from the protest on 17th April
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is of grave concern to anti-racists and anti-fascists for a number of reasons. In regards to protest, the Bill increases the powers of discretion that the police and the government have in deciding whether to stop protests going ahead, imposing conditions, and in making arrests of people who attend. Not only that, it introduces a maximum sentence of 10 years imprisonment for individuals who are deemed to have caused ‘nuisance’. The Bill also moves to change trespass from a civil offence to a criminal offence, which will have a disproportionate impact upon the Gypsy, Roma and Traveler (GRT) community when prosecutions are sought against ‘unauthorised encampments’. There are also changes which enable police to conduct a ‘stop and search’ on any individual who is not under suspicion of committing a crime, which will particularly impact upon black and Asian communities.
There are many other concerning factors in this Bill, but overall it will increase systemic racism within the criminal justice system as well as clampdown on people’s freedoms to protest against such racism, alongside any other issue. For more information about the impact on discrimination and civil liberties, check out the Good Law Project and Liberty websites.
In Stoke, as in many areas across the country, broad alliances are needed to build campaigns which oppose the Bill. A movement which unites different interests and campaign goals can work together to build a mass appeal that helps people realise that the Bill is a direct threat upon everyone’s freedoms. NorSCARF is in full support of the KTB Alliance Stoke and will continue to help build the presence locally in the hope that more people will show support and that the government will take notice.
The next national day of action will be on Saturday 29th May. Keep an eye on the NorSCARF social media for details, or join our email list by sending a message to firstname.lastname@example.org