Reply To: Elections Aftermath: Was our 2019 Vote & the EU Referendum Rigged? #TORYRIG2019


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Kim Sanders-Fisher

We should take note of the enormous sacrifices protestors are making all over the world to demand equality, end exploitation secure basic freedoms and overthrow authoritarian regimes even if it requires risking their lives. If we abandon our right to protest because this corrupt Tory Government has simply ordered us not to protest, we should hang our heads in shame. Protest has never been more vital to restoring our shattered democracy than right now. In the Morning Star Article entitled “Editorial: We must defeat this shockingly authoritarian Policing Bill,” they say that “Unions, campaign groups and charities are sounding the alarm over the shockingly authoritarian new policing Bill. Even senior police officers are speaking out over the dangerous implications of legislation that grants sweeping powers to the police to ‘act unilaterally with near-unlimited discretion,’ as a statement issued by scores of local Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion (XR) and other grassroots campaign organisations puts it.”

The Morning Star say that “The government makes no bones about the fact that this legislationis designed to criminalise particular forms of public protest, particularly the mass actions mounted by XR in 2018-19. Labour’s Diane Abbott points out that not only do the police have extensive powers to close down protests already but they are clearly abusing these, as we saw in the violent attack on women holding a peaceful vigil for murder victim Sarah Everard in Clapham at the weekend. The arrogance and brutality of the Metropolitan Police has brought far greater numbers out in public protests since, with Parliament Square heaving on Sunday and today. It has also prompted Labour to do the right thing and announce it will vote against the Bill, dropping a previous position of abstention. In reminding the opposition what its job is, the courageous women who went to Clapham Common on Saturday demonstrate the importance of public protest.” The police conduct at the vigil was an ominous glimps of the Tories ‘new normal!’

According to the Morning Star “The Home Office denies that our right to such protest is at risk: ‘The majority of protests … will be unaffected by these changes.’ But the very vagueness of the legislation makes that impossible to guarantee. Its provisions on ‘intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance’ allow huge leeway to police officers and the Crown Prosecution Service in deciding what constitutes ‘serious harm’ to ‘the public or a section of the public.’ Such harm can consist of causing ‘serious annoyance [or] serious inconvenience,’ and can land you in prison for up to 10 years. Sections dealing with ‘one-person protests’ leave it to the discretion of a senior police officer whether the noise you are making risks causing ‘serious unease’ in those who hear it. If so, it’s illegal. Shadow justice secretary David Lammy says the Bill is ‘poorly thought out.’ But this suggests Labour’s front bench has either yet to wake up to what the government is up to, or, more worryingly, has no fundamental objection to it.”

The Morning Star insist that “The policing Bill is not some aberration. It has in common with last year’s spycops Bill, one Labour also had trouble opposing, the goal of facilitating the arbitrary exercise of power by state agents. Under this legislation protesters can be arrested and charged on grounds so vague that they are almost impossible to refute. Because of the spycops Bill a wide range of government bodies, including police forces but extending to the Department of Health, the Gambling Commission and others, can pre-authorise crimes, any kind of crime, there are no exceptions, even for murder. The only criterion they have to meet is whether, in their own judgement, the crime is necessary to deliver outcomes that are again defined in the loosest possible terms, including ‘to prevent disorder’ or to maintain ‘economic wellbeing.’ There is a clear direction of travel here: the British state is rapidly acquiring huge powers over citizens, and security agencies are being empowered to act as they please.”

The Morning Star warn that “If the Bill cannot be defeated in Parliament, and the Tories’ large majority makes this unlikely. its repeal must become the cause of a new wave of mass campaigning. We have seen far too much abuse by state agents already, from undercover cops deceiving women into sexual relationships to police collusion in the illegal blacklisting of trade unionists. Our rights are under attack, but the left’s response has been piecemeal, criticising some authoritarian laws while endorsing others, failing to orient ourselves consistently as a democratic movement opposed to concentrating power in the hands of the capitalist state. That needs to change.” Sadly the Labour Party’s inconsistent and feeble opposition is being held hostage by Sir Keir Starmer the Tories loyal Trojan horse dedicated to tearing apart the progressive Socialist left: Starmer has to go ASAP!

In the Labour List Article entitled “Why Labour is right to oppose the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill,” Russell Fraser quotes a judge who insists that “’Rights worth having are unruly things. Demonstrations and protests are liable to be a nuisance. They are liable to be inconvenient and tiresome, or at least perceived as such by others who are out of sympathy with them’. These were the words of one judge in a case concerning the Aldermaston Women’s Peace Camp, set up in the vicinity of an atomic weapons facility. Keir Starmer knows as well as anyone that protest rights are rights worth having. As his leadership campaign video emphasised, during his career he represented many people making a stand against the injustices of the day and seeking to vindicate their rights to assembly and free expression.” Labour members who were swayed by Starmer’s presentation are now horrified by his abstention and lack of opposition on the Spycops Bill with early indications of yet another abstention.

Fraser warns that “Those rights are once again under attack in the form of the police, crime, sentencing and courts bill. The most pernicious aspects of the proposals would target activists across our movement, and David Lammy’s confirmation that the Labour Party will vote against the bill this week is both welcome and right.” Sadly it took significant push-back from the public before Sir Keir clambered down off the fence in response to public outcry; this cowardly indecision was not a good look and it will further damage public confidence in the Labour Party as Starmer continues to insidiously hollow out the progressive left. Fraser points out that “The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has not disguised her contempt for the Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion movements. The only surprise in the new bill is that those groups are not actually mentioned by name.”

Fraser refutes claims that “the changes are necessary because of protest tactics like people glueing themselves to buildings or blocking roads to an organisation. In fact, those tactics are far from novel, and I have represented countless people charged with offences arising from exactly such conduct. There is no gap in the law as the bill’s explanatory note claims. The police currently enjoy a wide range of powers to control and restrict protest. Organisers of a planned march must notify the police in advance; police can seek the consent of the Home Secretary to prohibit a march if they fear it will lead to serious disorder; and they can impose conditions on demonstrations if they reasonably believe that it may result in ‘serious public disorder, serious damage to property or serious disruption to the life of the community. If there are gaps in the current law it has not prevented thousands of people participating in Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter protests being arrested and prosecuted.”

According to Fraser “Priti Patel wants to lower those legal tests to make it easier for curbs to be imposed on protests. It would mean that noisy protests that may result in the ‘intimidation or harassment’ of bystanders or cause them ‘serious unease, alarm or distress’ can be curtailed, even where no such effect is intended by the participants. The bill also hands the Home Secretary the power to later define what terms like ‘serious unease’ mean for the purposes of these offences. This removes parliament from the debate entirely: if that term and expressions like ‘serious disruption’ are to be defined, then it should be done by parliament, not on the whim of a Home Secretary. At present, after conditions are imposed on a static protest, it is an offence to knowingly fail to comply with any such requirement. Under these new government proposals, it will be an offence if a participant fails to comply with any condition that ‘they ought to have known; was in place.” Bear in mind, Patel is a particularly cruel and vicious Home Secretary.

Reminding us of the amazing persistence and determination of the most successfully prolific ‘Stop Brexit’ protester Fraser points out that “There is even a section that will surely become known as the ‘Steve Bray clause’: a provision aimed at ‘one-person protests’. While the targets of this bill are undoubtedly obvious, the wider effect of the bill is equally clear. There is no reason why the sorts of marches and rallies frequently organised by the TUC could not infringe this legislation and it would be wrong to assume that it could never happen.” In reality the wording is so ridiculously open-ended that it could be easily interpreted to prevent strike action as a Union organized strike by its very nature is designed to cause ‘serious disruption’ to business, deprive the public of a service and have a negative financial impact on the employer which could potentially render most strike action illegal under this law!

This is a very slippery slope on our race to the bottom and the imposition of authoritarian rule to secure even greater exploitation of the working poor under the Tory elite. Fraser says that “Marches from Embankment to Hyde Park are always lively, colourful and boisterous, filled with chanting and music precisely in order to attract attention to the issue or cause. In another case in which Starmer himself appeared on behalf of anti-war protesters, a judge noted that ‘civil disobedience has a long and honourable history in this country’. The police, crime, sentencing and courts bill is a nakedly political attack not just on that history, but on some of the most well-supported and popular causes of the day. They are causes that are typically most enthusiastically supported in our movement and across the wider left. Our party is right to side with those concerned with climate and racial justice, and not with an increasingly authoritarian Home Secretary who thinks nothing of vilifying desperate migrants and lawyers who represent them.”

The Labour opposition is failing us just when we need them to provide robust scrutiny. In the London Economic Article entitled “The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is rubbish. So is Labour’s response,” Henry Goodwin criticizes Starmer’s pathetically late call for united Labour opposition. He says that “After a weekend in which British policing was thrust into the spotlight, a remarkable twist of fate sees the government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill receive its second reading in the Commons today. Even before the Metropolitan Police’s disastrous display of force on Clapham Common on Saturday night, civil liberties campaigners warned that the bill represented a ‘staggering assault’ on the right to protest. Human rights barrister Adam Wagner, of Doughty Street chambers, Keir Starmer’s former parish, said the legislation “would effectively put the current situation where Covid regulations have given police too much power over our free speech rights on a permanent footing.”

Goodwin warns that “The bill will ‘hugely expand’ police powers to stop protests which cause ‘serious unease’ and create criminal penalties for people causing ‘serious annoyance’. Events of the past few days ‘have shown beyond doubt that the police cannot be trusted to protect free speech rights,’ Wagner said. ‘Well, it’s about to get worse’. So it’s good, you might say, that Labour, which, in a vintage bit of Starmerism, had planned to abstain, will now vote against (it’s still very likely to pass). David Lammy, the shadow justice secretary, said the bill would impose ‘disproportionate controls on free expression and the right to protest,” which makes you wonder whether he found it ‘disproportionate’ before Starmer’s U-turn. Labour MPs are at pains to point out that, in the 296-page bill, ‘women’ are not mentioned once, but ‘monuments’ are cited frequently. It is undoubtedly true that the legislation is wholly inadequate for tackling violence against women. But so is what Labour is proposing in its place.”

Goodwin reports that “Lammy called for increased minimum sentences for rapists and stalkers, as well as the introduction of life sentences for crimes like abduction, sexual assault and murder. In short, the same old tough-on-crime, law-and-order rhetoric as ever. Tougher sentencing, the logic goes, acts as a deterrent to potential criminals, and therefore makes a man less likely to assault a woman because he’s scared of spending decades behind bars. But there’s scant evidence that it actually works, the government’s own minister responsible for sentencing admitted last week that there is minimal proof that longer sentences cut crime. It’s not even especially popular with voters; fewer than one-in-ten people think locking more people up is the best way to deal with crime. Nor does it do anything to address the root causes of offending.”

Goodwin points out that “Women who gathered across the country to mourn Sarah Everard on Saturday night weren’t just doing so because of the horrific circumstances of her disappearance and death. They were doing so because Sarah’s fate represented the extreme end of something they had all experienced: a society in which men habitually harass, assault and abuse women with impunity. Sending rapists to prison for 20 years instead of 10 will do very little to tackle the systemic issues which created that culture in the first place. Angela Davis, the veteran civil rights campaigner, wrote that the ideological function of a prison is as an ‘abstract site’ into which ‘undesirables are deposited’. Touting incarceration as the answer to complex societal issues is essential ‘out of sight, out of mind’ wrought physical, so long as we’re locking up more criminals for longer, we’re absolved of dealing with why they became criminals in the first place. It’s like sticking a plaster on a gaping wound.”

So how does Boris Johnson and his ruthless authoritarian Government respond? In the London Economic Article entitled “Plain-clothes police will patrol bars and clubs ‘to keep women safe’,” but according to Henry Goodwin “The proposal was met with an instant online backlash, with many saying the police should not be given ‘extra powers.’ He says the proposal would have ‘Plain-clothes police officers will patrol bars and clubs as part of plans to keep women safe from ‘predatory’ offenders. Following a meeting of the government’s Crime and Justice Taskforce chaired by Boris Johnson, Downing Street said it was taking a series of ‘immediate steps’ to improve security. Among them is to roll-out across the country pilots of a programme where uniformed and plainclothes officers seek to actively identify predatory and suspicious offenders in the night-time economy.”

Goodwin reports that “Dubbed ‘Project Vigilant’, the programme can involve officers attending areas around clubs and bars undercover, along with increased police patrols as people leave at closing time. Pilot schemes will run across the country, with more patrols to ‘identify predatory and suspicious offenders’. A fund to provide other deterrents, like better lighting and CCTV, will be doubled to £45 million. The prime minister said that Everard’s death has ‘unleashed a wave of feeling about women not feeling safe’, adding: ‘We must drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to better protect and defend them’.” This sounds like ‘Big Brother on Steroids’ or perhaps a few pints would be necessary to avoid blowing police cover. No end of useful surveillance information could be gleaned snooping on relaxed punters drinking at nightspots; it would function as an open-ended fishing expedition for more intensive Spycops targeting.

Goodwin says that “The meeting took place as demonstrators again took to the streets of central London to protest at the policing of a vigil for Everard on Saturday. There were a number of arrests after the police ordered the protesters to disperse, warning they were in breach of coronavirus regulations. Earlier Johnson backed Metropolitan Police chief Dame Cressida Dick following calls for her resignation in the wake of the weekend’s events on Clapham Common where crowds gathered to remember the 33-year-old marketing executive. Serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, has been charged with her kidnapping and murder. Johnson acknowledged that the scenes, when a number of women were arrested, had been ‘distressing’ but said the police had a ‘very, very difficult job’ to do.”

Goodwin reports that Johnson “Said that Sir Thomas Winsor, chief inspector of constabulary, would be carrying out a review into the way the event was policed. ‘I think people have got to have confidence in the police and Tom’s going to look at that,’ the prime minister said. However, proposals to place plain-clothed police officers in bars and nightclubs was met with hostility online, with one commentator suggesting that it was… ‘lions will patrol antelope enclosures to prevent hyena attacks’.” Well put! Eleanor Penny responded by Tweeting: “The key to a good night out is undercover state agents with complete impunity and an institutional history of murderous violence and sexual abuse rocking up to the club fresh off kicking the shit out of protesters.”

According to Goodwin “Dr Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: ‘This is a cynical attempt to shift attention from the matter at hand. Undercover police have total immunity if they commit abuse while infiltrating criminal gangs, despite reality that many of the victims of abuse have been women. The police do not need extra powers.’ Others pointed out that the policy was a perverse response to the alleged killing of a woman by a police officer.” Talia Lavin Tweeted: “this seems like a really weird reaction to a woman being murdered by a police officer.” Some suggested the move would ‘kill the nightlife industry’.” Jason Okundaye Tweeted: “This must be a ploy to kill the nightlife industry because if they put plain-clothed officers in the clubs I’m not going ever again. It’s not me who’s getting murdered on the dance floor.”

Goodwin reported that “In a Commons statement on Monday, Home Secretary Priti Patel said ‘too many’ women felt unsafe in public. ‘Too many of us have walked home from school or work alone, only to hear footsteps uncomfortably close behind us,’ she said. ‘Too many of us have pretended to be on the phone to a friend to scare someone off. Too many of us have clutched our keys in our fist in case we need to defend ourselves and that is not OK.’ She said footage of the Clapham Common event, where four protestors, were arrested had been ‘upsetting’.” But he said “She defended restrictions on protests put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus, urging people not to participate in large gatherings while they remained in force. ‘The right to protest is the cornerstone of our democracy, but the Government’s duty remains to prevent more lives being lost during this pandemic,’ she said.” Despite the fact that our vaccination program is reducing Covid risk the Tories will hang onto this excuse as long as they can.

Few Brits can imagine how anything might ‘upset’ ‘Ice Pick’ Patel as she certainly doesn’t show one once of empathy for those on whom she inflicts untold suffering. As.one of the most cruel and heartless Tory MPs, the current Home Secretary is the perfect ruthless Minister to aggressively advance authoritarian objectives as Boris Johnson seeks to solidify his Tory Sovereign Dictatorship. Like the Spycops Bill and other pieces of excessively toxic legislation this Policing Bill is being rammed through Parliament right now because the British people are too distracted by the treat of Covid to take to the streets on mass to protest the rampant corruption of this Government or demand a full Investigation into the Covert 2019 Rigged Election result and Covid has provided an excuse to massively restrict our freedoms. But if we do not wake up from this daze of complacent apparently very soon and derail this fascist takeover it will take decades before there is any possibility to remove this Tory Sovereign Dictatorship from office: they must go ASAP! DO NOT MOVE ON!