MPs are calling for an explicit exemption for the right to protest in the coronavirus regulations.
Over 60 MPs and peers have signed a joint letter to the Home Secretary organised by campaign groups Big Brother Watch and Liberty calling.
You can read the full letter here.
Silkie Carlo, director of Big Brother Watch said:
“A country cannot be described as a democracy if people do not have the freedom to protest.
“We have campaigned throughout the past year for Ministers and the police to respect the rights of people to peacefully and safely demonstrate.
“The harrowing scenes of police officers using force against women at Clapham Common recently were avoidable and wrong. Over the past week, many more demonstrators and even legal observers have been arrested or fined.
“This stain on our democracy is a direct consequence of this Government’s disrespect for the most basic of British democratic freedoms.”
Sam Grant, Head of Policy and Campaigns at Liberty, said:
“We must all be able to stand up to power and have our voices heard. In a healthy democracy, protest is a critical way we can fight for what we believe in. The Government’s current quasi-ban on protest is completely unacceptable. Last week, the police conceded protest is not banned under the lockdown regulations, but used them to threaten then arrest demonstrators anyway.
“The Home Secretary must immediately issue guidance to all police forces to ensure socially distanced protests can go ahead and create an explicit exemption for protest in the current regulations. Those in power have made clear that they want to silence dissent and drastically curtail our right to free expression. In seeking to renew the Coronavirus Act next week they will threaten our right to protest in the near future, while seeking to pass a Policing Bill that will make these threats permanent.
“Using short-term restrictions on protest to stifle dissent while they pass permanent ones is as absurd as it is authoritarian. Now is the time for us to come together to stand up to this aggressive and egregious use of power.”