A ‘Kill the Bill’ protest took place on Deptford High Street with South-London activists hoping for local involvement and education on the change to a police bill that now limits the right to protest in England and Wales.
It is one of many in a string of demonstrations prompted by a change to protest laws in the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, some of which mean that the police now have powers to place restrictions when they deem a protest results in “serious public disorder”.
These changes will also mean police chiefs can impose start and finish times for protests, as well as to set noise limits, even if the protest only involves one person.
The street protest, which also included a petition signing stand, happened on April 10, 2021, and involved members of ‘Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism’, a London group that organises weekly street stalls in South London.
Ria Aivhilin, 24, a Deptford local who is a member, sees the proposed changes to the bill as a major attack on people’s democratic rights.
Aivhilin said: “We have to defend our right to protest right from the outset. We are trying to keep up the pressure in local communities and tell the government, OK, you’ve delayed the bill but we are not going anywhere.”
Aivhilin was at the Sarah Everard Vigil at Clapham Commons, which infamously devolved into chaotic intervention by the Metropolitan police and ended in arrests.
“All throughout this pandemic, the police have been shutting down our right to protest on the basis of healthcare concerns, even though we know that it’s harder for the virus to be spread outdoors.”
She claims it is hypocritical of the government to then also encourage people to go back to work in ‘cramped offices’ but condemn protesting on the streets.
Alexandra Harkai, 34, who is from Deptford, said about the street stall: “ I wholeheartedly agree, there is structural racism happening across the country including the police force.”
Darren Halsuy, 48, a passing Deptford local agrees with standing up for our rights to congregate and protest as well. However, he is not sure the protest would be effective. “The people around here kind of walk around not really getting involved in anything or they’re too wrapped up in their own problems to even care, but that’s just my opinion,” he said.
20-year-old Candice Starling, one of the protesters said: “We’ve had a lot of people coming to talk to us and it’s really good to see people engaging with their issues in their local community.
“Top-down change doesn’t work, change has to come from the bottom up. We have to rally together as a community and fight together.”