here's what's happening...
Across the UK, hundreds of thousands of people have been speaking against and protesting the new Police, Crime and Courts Bill that was introduced by the Conservative British Government earlier this year. This bill has been described by many as dangerous and a threat to human rights of protest and freedom of speech and is part of a long history of police and state violence in the UK. The bill comes after the Extinction Rebellion protests of 2019, and the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020. It also comes as the country comes out of a nationwide lockdown, which has had severe and lasting impacts on communities across the UK. The bill has huge implications on the freedom of speech, criminalisation of protest and surveillance of citizens coming to public spaces to protest in the UK. The bill will allow the police to do the following:
It allows police to prevent protests from happening if they are deemed disruptive or noisy - (which is what protests are meant to be) It also allows police to sentence organisers up to 11 months in prison if they breach a condition they “ought to have known about”.
The bill will allow for the over policing and criminalisation of already marginalised communities such as the Gypsy Roma Traveller community.
Excessive data gathering without any appropriate safeguards.
This is not an exhaustive list, read more about what this bill actually does.
What does this mean for us?
The Police, Crime and Courts Bill will have a huge ripple effect across the UK. In terms of the education sector, there is already clear evidence of the Government surveilling and sometimes criminalising students through the use of the Prevent agenda (Preventing PREVENT NUS handbook), and growing police presence on University Campus’ and at student demonstrations and protests.
Students have a long rich tradition of standing up for human rights and being at the forefront of protests and struggles across the globe. As students in the UK, you have a right to protest your unhappiness with your university and the government, by organising and attending demonstrations, protests, sit-ins, and supporting staff unions like UCU and IWGB in strikes. This bill threatens that freedom. The implications of this bill passing are deeply concerning, for example, it may mean that Universities will report protesting students to the police, or require police on campus when students do protest.
At the SU, we are strongly opposed to the Police, Crime and Punishment Bill. As democratically elected representatives here to fight for your voice to be heard, collectivise your frustrations and support you. This bill goes against the very essence of democratic unions and the freedom of protest and expression that underpins our organisation.
What can I do?
On Saturday 1 May, the National Day of Action against this Bill will take place. Across the country, there will be protests happening under the name “Kill the Bill”. Find your local protest, tell your friends and show up!
As a student you can fight against this bill, you could organise virtual or in-person protests with your cohort, via the RCA Action Group, with us at the SU, or write letters to the RCA Senior Management, lecturers and tutors urging them to join you in fighting against this bill. You can also write to your local mp!