Job losses, low pay, cuts to services, police violence

Unite and fight

For the right to protest

Photo: Bristol Socialist Party

Photo: Bristol Socialist Party   (Click to enlarge: opens in new window)

Tom Baldwin, Socialist Party and TUSC Bristol mayoral candidate

The Tories’ Police, Crime, Courts and Sentencing Bill has sparked determined ‘Kill the Bill’ demonstrations across the country. This draconian law was put forward explicitly to tackle peaceful protests and gives enormous power to the police to ban them. Protesters could face ten-year sentences just for ‘annoying’ people!

Even the ex-police chief of Durham has warned that the bill would mean moving towards “paramilitary policing” and that government ministers are “flexing their muscles via their police forces” similar to repressive regimes elsewhere in the world.

The Covid-sparked capitalist crisis means workers face a wave of job losses and attacks on pay and conditions, as well as a fresh round of austerity. This government of the bosses is beefing up police powers in preparation for the resulting struggles.

One of the biggest recent protests was in Bristol, where thousands turned out to peacefully oppose the bill. Once most protesters had left it was violently attacked by police. Vans were driven into the crowd and police deployed horses, dogs, pepper spray and batons against protesters. This provoked a response from sections of the crowd.

Mainstream press coverage has been very one-sided, trying to paint protesters as thugs and ignoring the police provocation. Claims that police suffered broken bones were retracted but only after they’d made the headlines. On Tuesday 23 and Friday 26 March police also violently cleared peaceful protesters from the streets.

Tory politicians have hypocritically condemned protesters while still pushing to curtail peaceful protest. Bristol’s Labour mayor Marvin Rees has joined the one-sided condemnation of demonstrators. Incredibly, he claimed the police are “managing protests well and with sensitivity”!

In capitalist society the police form part of a state apparatus that is used to defend the unequal profit system and the rule of the rich and powerful. They have a long record of attacking and disrupting protest movements, including using agents provocateurs to incite violence. As well as campaigning to defend the right to peaceful protest and for the policing bill to be scrapped, we call for democratic working-class and community control of policing and public safety.

The new bill won’t stop protests, such is the anger, especially among young people, at how this unequal and repressive capitalist system is destroying people’s lives. Workers fighting against job losses and ‘fire and rehire’, and health workers campaigning for a decent pay rise have already been fined and attacked using Covid restrictions. The police bill will be further used to target workers defending their rights and livelihoods.

The trade unions, which organise millions of workers, need to step up and take an active role in the movement to defend the right to protest. They have the organised power to co-ordinate the different struggles that are erupting and unite them in a mass movement to scrap the bill, defend jobs, end low pay, fight austerity and secure democratic control of the police.

Young people and workers also need a political alternative to this capitalist system, defended by all the establishment politicians, that has nothing to offer us but inequality, exploitation and repression.

That is why the Socialist Party will be standing candidates in the May elections as part of the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition. This is just one part of our struggle to build a new mass party that fights for the interests of workers and young people and for a socialist alternative to this rotten capitalist system. Join us in that fight.

See also: Defending the right to protest