New Worker Banner

The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain


Kill the Bill

THE bourgeois media is having a field day over the riots in Bristol which erupted last weekend. Thousands of demonstrators peacefully rallied in central Bristol on Sunday to protest against the Tory government’s proposed new police powers bill. The street violence erupted during protests against proposed Tory legislation that would sanction up to 10 years in jail for damaging memorials and give the police new powers to curb or ban public protests in the future.

The clashes were clearly triggered by heavy-handed police attempts to disperse the protesters on Sunday evening. But claims that “professional agitators” and “anarchist” gangs were leading the assaults on the police and the torching of police vans are taken as gospel by the mainstream media while reports of police violence are routinely ignored.

Boris Johnson was quick to condemn the violence. “I think that all that kind of thing is unacceptable” he said. “And I think that people obviously have a right to protest in this country, but they should protest peacefully and legally”.

This was echoed by Sir Keir Starmer, the new Labour leader who said that the violence was “inexcusable” and “completely unacceptable”. Another Labour man, Marvin Rees, the Mayor of Bristol, said “smashing buildings in our city centre, vandalising vehicles, attacking our police will do nothing to lessen the likelihood of the Bill going through. On the contrary, the lawlessness on show will be used as evidence and promote the need for the Bill”.

Yes, no, maybe. Misgivings about the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill goes far beyond the opposition parties in the House of Commons including waverers in the Tory ranks like former premier Theresa May. The Johnson team clearly hope that the unrest in Bristol will sway them back into toeing the Government line. On the other hand the riots that have been the focus of the mass media over the past few days have certainly alerted the public to the dangers posed by this reactionary bill.

The arbitrary and discretionary powers that this bill provides gives even more cover for the paying off of old scores in the name of law and order while leaving the police even more open to political pressure.

In 1973 building workers were jailed on trumped up “conspiracy” charges for taking part in an official union picket in Shrewsbury. They were victimised as a result of pressure from the Tory Heath government and the National Federation of Building Trades Employers.

After nearly fifty years of hard campaigning the sentences were finally overturned this week.

In 1975 six Irishmen were jailed for life for the Birmingham pub bombings. The “Birmingham 6” convictions were declared unsafe and unsatisfactory and quashed by the Court of Appeal on 14th March 1991.

More recently we’ve seen the police brutally disperse a women’s vigil for a murder victim in London and a health service protest organiser fined £10,000 in Manchester for breaching the coronavirus regulations.

The police don’t need more discretionary and arbitrary powers. They’ve got enough under existing legislation – and we’ve seen how that’s been abused by the heavy-handed arm of the law during the lockdowns.