On 21 March around 1,000 people, predominantly young women, came together in Newcastle to protest the new draconian police and crime sentencing bill, and demand an end to violence against women. On arriving at Grey’s Monument for a peaceful socially distanced rally, we were told that we were gathering illegally and forced together down a nearby street, away from the much more open plaza as had been planned.
All of us were wearing masks and clearly trying to uphold the two-metre rule, but this was only made more difficult by the harassment of the police. They began warning us, citing regulations, even telling some young women to ‘stop being silly’ and to move on from the protest.
Despite all this, the demo was energetic and defiant, with a large number of students marching through the streets chanting “Kill the bill” and booing the police who had pushed them away. The Socialist Party had a great presence on the march and our leaflets were incredibly popular, with some shouting out for them as we were going past.
Despite our peaceful march, the police still arrested a few attendees based on no real crime, and without them causing any trouble. We need to make sure we continue to fight against this despicable bill and kick Priti Patel and the rest of the Tories out of Westminster.
Daniel Gilmore, Newcastle Socialist Party
Police and Tory ministers were all over the radio and TV on the morning of 20 March – warning any potential protesters threatening to take to the streets in Brighton that they would make arrests and issue fines.
However, as 2pm arrived, the sea of home-made placards grew – a show of defiance from protesters that they would not be silenced.
Police watched on in vans around the park. They had clearly decided to keep a low profile with only a token presence on the ground. Speakers were cheered when they said they would not be silenced by the police or government, and would defend their right to demonstrate against violence against women and racism. Many made the important point that now is the time to come together to unite all struggles in the fight for justice.
While there were a couple of trade union banners on the demo, the organised union presence was still generally absent. Given that the new police bill will be used against workers in struggle, it is vital that the unions do not sit on the side lines and leave this fight to the youth.
Several thousand people spontaneously took to the surrounding streets, taking over and blocking the main roads in and out of Brighton showing how laws against protesting can be resisted with mass action.
Many young people on the demo were the same youth who marched on the Black Lives Matter demos. Now, just a few months later, they are marching against a government trying to silence the right to protest.
Glen Kelly, Brighton Socialist Party
“Kill the bill, kill the bill” – this was the chant from around 150 overwhelmingly young people, marching through York city centre on Wednesday 17 March.
As explained by many of the speakers at the protest, vague terms within the bill, such as “causing annoyance” alongside other provisions, represent a fundamental attack on the right to protest.
People were actively searching us out in the crowd to get copies of our Socialist Party leaflet.
York Socialist Party member Maurice got one of the loudest cheers when he criticised Keir Starmer’s lack of opposition to the Tories, including support for the ‘spycops’ bill last year. He only opposed the police bill following the anger at the repression meted out to the Sarah Everard vigil on Clapham Common.
Iain Dalton, Yorkshire Socialist Party
Leeds Socialist Party joined around 400 determined and angry people on 21 March at a demonstration against the government’s new police bill. The Socialist Party gave out over 300 leaflets, and met a number of people interested in joining.
Socialist Party member Iain Dalton spoke from the platform and our ideas were met with huge cheers – particularly our call for democratic control of the police and our criticism of Starmer’s Labour Party. Iain explained the need for a new workers’ party and outlined the reasons for the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalitions’s challenge in the upcoming May election. Afterwards we received several offers of support with leafleting!
James Ellis, Leeds Socialist Party
For the third time in a week, around 50 mostly young and determined people turned out to the #stopthebill protest in Castle Square on the evening of Friday 19 March. The community-organised protest brought together campaigners for women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, climate campaigns, socialists and trade unionists from across the city.
A dozen Swansea Young Socialists and young Socialist Party members attended, armed with our posters and leaflets. Socialist Party members spoke representing Swansea Socialist Party branch, Socialist Students and Swansea Trades Council. They highlighted the reality of the fight we face, and the need to build a united socialist alternative to fight against the capitalist system.