14 Jul 2021
Later that day in Parliament, MPs voted in favour of plans to restrict peaceful protest and criminalise the way of life of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.
The good news is that it’s clear there’s a growing number of voices challenging the bill. And it's having an impact. MPs from opposition parties voted to scrap the plans to clamp down on protest. And some, though not nearly enough, Conservative voices spoke out against the restrictions during the debate – including David Davis, who said that the bill does “pose a grave threat to the fundamental right to protest”.
In a letter published in The Times, former senior police officers wrote to the Home Secretary ahead of the debate. They wrote that the protest laws will have “harmful implications for the ability of police officers to enforce the law and for the health of our democracy”.
What’s more, a number of United Nations Special Rapporteurs have condemned the new laws. Even the government's own watchdog, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, said the laws violated human rights legislation.
These are voices that are going to be increasingly difficult for the government to ignore. The fight absolutely isn't over yet.
The bill now passes to the House of Lords, where it’s likely face an even more challenging time. Here, it’ll be scrutinized by several former judges and lawyers with expertise in human rights, as well as peers who are experienced campaigners and have relied on protest to achieve positive change. And, importantly, the government does not have a majority there. It can be defeated.
Friends of the Earth will continue to defend our right to peaceful protest and the rights of nomadic Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities.