Over 100 people gathered in the centre of Falmouth this afternoon in protest against the government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
The controversial bill, introduced in the House of Commons on 9 March, would give police powers to fine individuals who refuse to follow directions on how protests should be carried out, including start and finish times and noise limits.
The act of “intentionally or recklessly causing public nuisance” would be made an offence, and fines could reach £2,500, with a maximum 10-year sentence for damaging public memorials, such as statues.
Protests have formed across the country to oppose the bill, including one in Truro last Saturday.
“Kill The Bill Falmouth” was organised by the group Kill The Bill Cornwall. A Facebook page for the event stated: “Last week hundreds of people marched through the streets of Truro in protest at these draconian laws.
“We refuse to accept that 10 years in prison for peaceful protest is reasonable.
“We refuse to accept the criminalisation of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities that this bill facilitates.
“We refuse to stand by and witness the death of democracy.
“The media and police narrative of the events in Bristol have shocked us all. It’s clear they want us divided.”
This event comes after 21 police officers were injured during a “Kill The Bill” protest in Bristol last Sunday.
Under current COVID-19 restrictions, protests in England are neither explicitly permitted nor explicitly prohibited. Recently, police officers have been criticised for arresting people attending protests.
The organisers of the Falmouth protest said that the event would be socially distanced and encouraged mask-wearing, which was largely maintained.
There were passionate speeches by organisers, with many criticising an institutional problem in the police force: “There is nothing that has happened that has caused the police to put this bill through. A police officer killed and raped an innocent woman and they passed this through undercover through a lockdown.”
One speaker remarked: “If protest changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”
When marching from the Moor, protesters chanted “We will not be silenced” and “Protect your right to protest.”
Speaking to an organiser about the event, she said: “This is your fight… It’s vital for everyone to get involved.”
There was a small police presence, with around half a dozen officers.
When asked about advice she would give to a first-time protester, an organiser who specialises in providing legal help to protesters told the Anchor that it’s vital to go to the Green and Black Cross website to learn your rights to help you in any conversation with the police. If you do get into any legal trouble, she advised not to use a duty solicitor but rather one with protest experience and to never give any details to the police when questioned.