On Friday, police dressed in riot gear cleared protestors out of Bristol city centre, leading to ten arrests. The protests saw officers attacked, police vehicles set on fire and the windows of a police station smashed. Avon and Somerset Police is investigating assaults on 40 officers and one member of the media.
Why are they protesting?
The protests are against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Bill, with the demonstrations dubbed ‘Kill the Bill’.
The bill, largely referred to as just the Police and Crime Bill, will hand the police and the home secretary increased powers to intervene in protests.
The right to protest, however, is enshrined in the Human Rights Act, and protestors are concerned this new bill could jeopardise democracy.
READ MORE: Bristol’s Kill the Bill protestors ‘throw fireworks’ at police
What does the bill say?
The 307-page bill will hand the home secretary powers to create laws that would define “serious disruption”, which would then allow police to intervene in protests which are deemed disruptive.
The proposed legislation also gives police more power to deal with “static protests” such as “sit-ins”.
There are also proposals to impose start and finish times on protests, as well as “maximum noise limits”.
The bill states police will be able to intervene in a protest where noise is impacting those around it.
The bill will also make it easier to convict protestors as it reinstates the offence of creating public nuisance into common law.
Protesting around the UK Parliament will also be outlawed by ensuring vehicle access is maintained.
The rules set out in the bill can be applied to a demonstration of just one person.
A measure in the bill also states that damage to memorials could lead to up to 10 years in prison, following the toppling of a statue of slave trader Edward Colston in Bristol.
Mass occupations of roads and bridges in London and elsewhere stretched the police to the limit.
This bill includes an offence of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance”.
This is designed to stop people from occupying public spaces, hanging off bridges, glueing themselves to windows – all tactics used by Extinction Rebellion.
The Home Office insists the bill will respect human rights, but, if this legislation passes, it would significantly expand authorities’ ability to intervene if they see fit.