Portsmouth Guildhall sees activists from wide-ranging groups unite for Kill The Bill rally
GROUPS from across the city have come together in Guildhall Square for a Kill The Bill rally, showing their opposition to proposed legislation that would give police more powers to curtail protests.
It follows several other Kill The Bill rallies across the country, with demonstrations in Bristol last month leading to clashes between activists and the police.
The rallies are being held in opposition to the government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The bill includes provisions that would allow police to levy a £2,500 against even a lone protester if they refused to follow officers’ instructions, and it would allow police to set noise and time limits on rallies.
From protests against former President Donald Trump to last week’s Reclaim the Streets rally highlighting violence and harassment against women, Guildhall Square has hosted a wide variety of demonstrations in recent years – but activists see the bill chipping away their ‘essential’ right to use the public space, according to builder Jez Stevens.
Dressed as the grim reaper and carrying a coffin emblazoned with the word ‘democracy’, the 54-year-old said: ‘To come to an open space like this, I think it’s essential. There aren’t that many people who live within half a mile of where we are and there isn’t a great deal of noise.
‘No-one is letting off fireworks or banging drums.
‘It’s a fundamental part of our democracy.’
As well as drawing seasoned activists, the event galvanised younger people to attend their first political rally.
Allanah Smithson, a 20-year-old economics student at the University of Portsmouth, said: ‘This is my first protest, and I’m very excited to be here. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
‘Everyone here seems very full of love and very supportive. It’s just a very nice atmosphere.
‘I think the reason why there aren’t that many young people here is because they don’t understand the bill.’
The rally attracted a variety of groups, including activists from trade unions, Extinction Rebellion and the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as activists focused on Portsmouth-specific issues.
Also in attendance were activists from the Let’s Stop Aquind group, which has held several protests against a massive electricity infrastructure project set to affect neighbourhoods in Eastney.
Viola Langley, a Milton-resident and co-founder of the group, said: ‘Local issues like Let’s Stop Aquind are very important to us.
‘We had a protest in October last year where within three days we gathered 300 people.
‘We’re looking at another protest – should this bill get through, we won’t be able to show our protest and our objections to this big project.
‘People are little bit scared to come out and protest.’
Jez added: ‘There are different movements out there and each one of those groups wants freedom and democracy.’
The bill – which is due to be examined by a parliamentary committee – is not expected back in Parliament until June 24.