Commenting on the passing of an emergency motion at the National Education Union’s Annual Conference, which is being held virtually, Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“This emergency motion reflects the concerns of many in our union, the trade union movement and much of civil society generally, about the proper role of the police in policing protest.
“The present Bill gives far too much discretion to prohibit and limit protest by requiring the police to decide whether ‘serious annoyance’ or ‘nuisance’ is caused to those who are the subject of the protest or even indirectly affected by it. The Government's idea of the acceptable protest as one having no effect is absurd.
“The police have not sought and do not want this discretion. It will put them at the centre of arguments around which protests to prohibit and restrict, and which to allow. The backdrop since lockdown has included demonstrations around Black Lives Matter, violence against women, and Covid related restrictions. The virus, made worse by the government's failures in combatting it, has revealed structural weaknesses in our society, affecting in particular the more vulnerable and marginalised in society.
“This Bill also unnecessarily widens the scope of the events covered – from mass demonstrations, it will now include single-person and static protests. Local lobbies against parking restrictions or library closures will now be in scope.
“We believe that this Bill attempts to solve a problem that does not exist, diverting the police into partisan ‘culture wars’, and restricting an inherent aspect of a free society – the right to protest.”