Protestors rally to stop government bill that would take Britain 'back 200 years' with proposal to curtail protests

PROTESTORS marched across Portsmouth as they continued the fight to stop the country ‘going back’ 200 years amid proposals for a contentious government bill giving police more powers to stamp out protests.

Sunday, 2nd May 2021, 11:12 am

Protestors claim Britain could be on the verge of returning to the times of the infamous Peterloo Massacre in 1819 when up to 18 protestors were slaughtered by cavalry militia after gathering in Manchester to demand reform to parliamentary representation.

The massacre paved the way for parliamentary democracy and was a defining period of the time when ordinary people stepped up to protest in a way that made its mark on history and left a legacy that lives on today.

But if the government’s proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill gets the go-ahead the country will be plunged back into the darkness, Kill The Bill protestors say.

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Protestors attend the Kill The Bill demo in the Guildhall Square, Portsmouth

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Dozens voiced their opposition to the bill, which includes provisions to allow police to levy £2,500 against a lone protester if they refused to follow officers’ instructions. It would also allow police to set noise and time limits on rallies.

The May Day march on Saturday, International Workers Day, saw protestors gather at Guildhall Square before marching to Southsea Bandstand.

But some were less than impressed with their presence, including a salsa dance group who were in the thrust of their moves, while a grandparent was also unhappy their session had been hijacked and had left her grandchildren ‘petrified’ by the loud protest as the rain poured down.

Local activist and Labour council candidate Charlotte Gerada at the Kill The Bill demo in the Guildhall Square, Portsmouth

Portsmouth Trades Council had organised a rally to defend the right to protest at Guildhall before the Kill the Bill march headed to the bandstand where speeches were made.

A number of groups joined forces for the protest including Extinction Rebellion Southsea, Reclaim the Streets, Stand up to Racism and Black Lives Matter.

Maddy Hall, one of the event organisers who represents Reclaim the Streets while working with the Kill the Bill coalition, said: ‘A lot of groups have joined forces to protest at the bill.

‘We live in a democracy and just feel the bill would limit our human rights. Being able to protest is a fundamental part of our democracy and to take it away would stop our right to express our opinion on subjects.

Protestors arrive at Southsea Bandstand where salsa dancers were performing

‘We feel we have to stand up to this because this goes against how a democracy should be run.’

The view was shared by Stand up to Racism organiser Simon Magorian. He said: ‘It’s important people came out today as one of our democratic rights is being taken off us.

‘The provisions within the bill are really quite extreme. The bill is unnecessary, they are pernicious, retrograde and chipping away at another part of our democracy.

‘It’s part of our democracy to actually go out on the streets and protest about things you care about. Everything will be limited to newspapers and television. I don’t think this is good.’

Antonio Angelino, of Extinction Rebellion Southsea, said: ‘We are a democracy and if they pass the bill then they take away those rights. It’s not on.

‘We elect MPs to represent us but we always have, as a last resort, the right to protest but they are going to take that away from us.’

Mr Angelino said this was a significant moment in our nation’s history and likened it to the Peterloo Massacre which took place in Manchester in August 1819 when up to 18 people were slayed as cavalry charged into a crowd of around 60,000 people who had gathered to demand the reform of parliamentary representation.

‘It was the first protest that we had and the yeoman came through the crowd swinging their blades. After that it came through parliament that we had the right to protest within the right manner,’ Mr Angelino said.

‘So we are going backwards. We are going back to that period where the elite say “we’re not having that”.’

Former student Chris Raj, 21, of Southsea, decided to join the protest because ‘we all have a right to protest’ and said the bill was being ‘put through by (home secretary) Priti Patel to silence Extinction Rebellion and Black lives Matter’.

‘It’s part of a Tory ploy to silence social justice movements. It’s unjust and not how a democracy should be run. Everyone should have freedom of speech,’ he said.

But not everyone was impressed by the protestors. Tourist Marilyn Talbot, 72, was visiting from Bristol. ‘I don’t agree with them chanting about (prime minister Boris Johnson and Ms Patel) “going to hell”. It’s a bit strong,’ she said.

Fareham grandmother Claire Springer, 50, was watching her daughter take part in the salsa group while sat with her grandchildren until the protestors turned up.

‘My grandchildren are petrified of them and the noise they are making,’ she said. ‘It isn’t a peaceful protest. They have come here and taken over and ruined it. The salsa group has been meeting for the last few weeks here and have booked it.’

Meanwhile salsa dancers moved aside before waiting patiently for the protest and speeches to finish before carrying on their jives.

A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron

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