The right to protest “is not absolute”, said United Kingdom Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, announcing new proposals to clamp down on protests. The new proposals as per Reuters will broaden the range of situations in which police are able to act on or end serious disruptions.
“The right to protest is a fundamental principle of our democracy, but this is not absolute,” he said, adding “We cannot have protests conducted by a small minority disrupting the lives of the ordinary public. It’s not acceptable and we’re going to bring it to an end.”
Recent years have seen Britain plagued by disruptive protests, mostly on environmental issues. These protests, which led to a shutdown of large parts of central London and blocked traffic on major highways, have led to calls for more power to the police for stopping these disturbances.
If passed, the proposed laws will mean that the police forces will have the power to shut down protests pre-emptively or even before they begin.
The bill as per Reuters was published last year and is currently in the final stages of debate in the UK parliament.
However, civil rights groups say that the bill is anti-democratic and gives the police way too much power. The bill already has provisions for the creation of a criminal offence for those seeking to lock themselves or a building or an object. It also allows courts to restrict the freedom of protestors seeking to cause serious disruption.