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UK government to make it easier for police to stop protests | News

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The British prime minister says change is needed to stop the chaos, but critics warn of risks to civil liberties.

The British government plans to amend the law to give police powers to crack down on protests after demonstrations that saw some people block roads or slow marches.

An amendment to the public order bill, due Monday, broadens the legal definition of “serious disruption” and gives greater flexibility and “absolute clarity” about when police can intervene in protests. increase.

Police have already been given additional powers to prevent protesters from using “guerrilla” tactics.

“The right to protest is a fundamental principle of democracy, but it is not absolute,” Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said in a statement Sunday evening.

“We cannot have a minority protest that disrupts the lives of the general public. It is unacceptable and we will end it.”

The movement against the right to protest follows a series of demonstrations, mostly by activists who have adopted more aggressive tactics to push governments to do more on climate change. Closed the country, and part of the capital.

Under the proposed changes, UK police would be able to close down protests before they happen, allowing them to see the “total impact” of a series of protests rather than dealing with them individually. is allowed to be considered.

The public order bill is now in the final stages of debate in parliament, facing strong criticism from rights groups for giving the police too much power.

The bill includes new criminal offenses against those who try to lock themselves in objects and buildings, and courts will restrict protesters’ freedom if they think it could cause “serious disruption”. can do.

Human rights group Liberty UK, which has campaigned against the bill, said on Twitter that the proposed law was “an attack on people’s ability to stand up to power”.

Metropolitan Police Chief Mark Rowley said he welcomed the proposed changes and said they were meant to clarify the complex legal situation facing the police.

“We are not asking for new powers to curb or limit protests, but we have asked for legal clarification on where the balance of rights should be,” Rowley said in a statement.

“Providing such clarity creates a clearer line for police to enforce when protests affect others who wish to conduct legitimate business.” He said.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, passed last April, introduced public nuisance, created powers for police to impose conditions on noisy protests, and increased sentences for highway obstruction. rice field.

The law has fueled widespread protests amid concerns about its impact on civil liberties.

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