LGBT+ activists call on House of Lords to do right thing and vote down ‘oppressive’ policing bill
Dozens of LGBT+ advocates and queer organisations have called upon the House of Lords to vote down the controversial policing bill.
Hundreds of protestors took to the streets across the UK over the weekend to rally against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill – which is being considered by the House of Lords today (17 January).
The bill would grant police the power to ban protests, marches and demonstrations that they consider to be “seriously disruptive” or deem too noisy. It will also put protestors at risk of lengthy prison sentences and hefty fines if they’re found to obstruct roads; damage memorials or statues; or attach themselves to another person or object.
The bill will also extend police stop and search powers to target any people and vehicles suspected to be carrying anything that could potentially be used in protests.
Now, more than 80 activists, political heavyweights, celebrities and organisations have called on the House of Lords to vote down the bill and “uphold protest rights and protect the progress made toward LGBT+ equality”.
The letter, coordinated by Liberty, has been signed by queer advocates ranging from It’s a Sin star Olly Alexander and trans activist Munroe Bergdorf to Lady Phyll and Peter Tatchell.
In the letter, the LGBT+ advocates urged peers to “stand against the protest provisions” and “vote against government amendments that will make the proposals more oppressive”, especially for the queer community.
The letter stated: “Pride is a protest. From the very first brick thrown at the famous Stonewall Inn, to the annual parades held during the UK’s warmest months, Pride reminds everyone everywhere that LGBT+ people’s existence is political, and that we’ve had to fight to be visible, have our needs taken seriously, and be treated equally.
“For many, our means of advocating for our rights have caused them unease, distress, and discomfort.
“From protest kiss-ins with our loved ones, to filing wedding licence applications to demand equal marriage; from staging die-ins to campaign against the government’s inaction around HIV and AIDS, to merely existing as out and proud LGBT+ people, were it not for the tireless campaigning of LGBT+ activists who took part in visible and vocal actions, many of us would not be able to stand today as free and equal members of society.”
However, the advocates argued the policing bill could “roll back the tide of the hard won rights” the LGBT+ community has secured.
It argued the bill would give police the “powers to restrict processions and assemblies that cause unease” and prevent protests that “cause too much noise”.
Should the bill go forward, the LGBT+ advocates believed these powers would be used to “silence out pleas for justice and equality” and “stifle” the ongoing work to “demand justice for LGBT+ communities”.
The letter stated: “Pride marches, and other protests for our rights, are one of the few ways we can proclaim our equal and deserving membership of society, express ourselves, and love out loud.
“Yet, the policing bill drastically undermines our ability to say to LGBT+ people everywhere that they are welcome, safe here and that their rights will be protected.”
As such, the LGBT+ advocates called on parliamentarians to vote for amendments that would remove the noise restrictions on protest and reduce proposed sentences for those breaching protest law.
They also called on lawmakers to “oppose the new government amendments that would make protest more dangerous for the most marginalised in society including by introducing new protest banning orders and expanding police powers of stop and search”.
As well as LGBT+ advocates and seas of protesters, hundreds of clinical psychiatrists and psychologists have called for the bill to be dropped.
The open letter, signed by more than 350 academics and clinicians, warned the bill will have a “profound negative impact on young people’s mental health”.
“We cannot think of better measures to disempower and socially isolate young people who are already suffering the devastating mental health consequences of disrupted education and prohibited social contact imposed by the pandemic,” the letter argued.
The letter argued the legislation, if passed, will force young people to choose between “being intimidated into inaction and isolation, or possibly criminalised if they choose to act”.
It warned some young people might choose to “escalate their actions to be more disruptive and possibly violent” as a result.