Chesterfield campaigners 'alarmed' by Policing Bill's threat to people's right to protest

Environmental campaigners in Chesterfield have raised concerns about the Government’s ‘ill-thought-out’ new policing bill.

Monday, 22nd March 2021, 9:33 am

The Chesterfield branch of Extinction Rebellion (XR) has joined groups across the country in criticising elements of the planned new law, which they consider a threat to the right to protest peacefully.

Members of the group claim ministers are rushing through a bill which will limit freedom of speech and democracy.

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Brian Lever, coordinator for XR Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire, said: “Environmental groups like Extinction Rebellion are alarmed and disgusted by the Government’s haste to give the police and courts more power than they have ever had, to shut up and lock up anyone who questions what the Government is doing – and failing to do – behind the closed doors of Whitehall.

"For decades scientists have been calculating the impact of the climate crisis and urgently telling cloth-eared governments they need to act very very quickly to prevent the imminent ecological meltdown of global warming.

"The Covid pandemic has been a terrible nightmare for many people, but we know that when average global temperatures go above the 1.5C tipping-point a few years from now – we are already 1C above pre-industrial levels and the increase is accelerating – the chaos and cost to humanity and nature will dwarf that of any flu or virus outbreak.”

Extinction Rebellion campaigners outside Chesterfield's Crooked Spire church.
Extinction Rebellion campaigners outside Chesterfield's Crooked Spire church.

XR says the Conservative Government should instead be prioritising the Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill – and November’s United Nations Climate Change conference in Glasgow will be a ‘last chance’ for the world’s leaders to agree on cutting emissions of carbon dioxide.

Mr Lever added: “Some members of XR Chesterfield & NE Derbyshire intend to be there in Glasgow with our banners and our songs to say ‘Governments, we are watching you!’

“It is Government's wish to prevent or silence this public presence, this vigilance and scrutiny, and to remove our right to say ‘act now’, that is behind the rush to bulldoze the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill through parliament.”

The bill has cleared its first hurdle in the House of Commons, with MPs voting by 359 to 263 in its favour on second reading.

Ministers argue that ‘changes in tactics’ used by demonstrators, including gluing themselves to buildings and vehicles, have ‘highlighted gaps in existing legislation.

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