A local anti-racism group protested outside Lewisham police station and plead for “new people, new forces” to join future ‘Kill the Bill’ demonstrations.
The south London brach of ‘Fight Racism, Fight Imperialism’ [FRFI] held a vigil on May 8, protesting the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The protest started at Lewisham clock tower. It included an open mic session, inviting the public to share their thoughts, before participants walked to Lewisham police station and stood together outside in solidarity against the bill.
Cass Howarth, a third year Goldsmiths student and member of FRFI, said: “The reason we are here talking about ‘Kill the Bill’ is that there is so much about it that is terrible, it is going to curb our right to protest, which is our democratic right.”
“During coronavirus they [the government] have had these increased powers and they’re desperate to cling on to them.”
The 307-page bill, described by the Government as a “provision about the police and other emergency workers”, has now passed its second reading in the House of Commons and is expected to progress to the committee stage on June 24.
It proposes a controversial range of new police powers and proposals on crime and justice across England and Wales. One outlined policy includes up to 10 years imprisonment for the damage of memorials, such as statues.
Howarth said: “It will make life harder for the gypsy, Roma [and] traveller community… and we know that having more stop and search powers will affect the black community the most.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel described the bills’ revisions of sexual offences as “crucial measures… to support victims of violent crimes including young women and girls.”
Labour have claimed the bill “does nothing to help women feel safer on the streets.”
There have been protests over the bill across the country over recent months, following on from protests over the killing of Sarah Everard, which sparked national outcry over violence against women. The biggest demonstration for the cause was in central London on April 3, when thousands of people gathered to protest against the bill.
Howarth reflected on the importance of continuing the fight against the bill, particularly in Lewisham. She said: “It’s not enough to just be in central London, if we want to build any type of movement that could actually oppose the bill, we need to be organising in our local communities to build a proper grassroots, street-based movement.”