Campaigners and civil rights charities have joined forces to oppose new government legislation which they described as “authoritarian” and a threat to democracy.
The group, which includes Liberty, ActionAid UK and Christian Aid, described the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill as an “attack” on the democratic right to protest.
Campaigners formed a human chain around the Home Office this morning and called on peers in the House of Lords to vote against the Bill when it is debated later today.
More than 800,000 people have signed petitions opposing the measures in the new legislation, the charities said.
The Bill creates new powers which would allow the police to bar individuals from attending protests and impose conditions on protests if they made too much noise, charities said in a briefing.
It will also extend police stop and search powers for use against those involved in protest, a move which they say risks “entrenching existing racial inequalities”.
Liberty is working with the campaign groups 38 degrees and US-based 350.org, as well as the charities ActionAid UK, Amnesty International UK, Christian Aid, Friends of the Earth, Global Justice Now, Greenpeace UK, SumOfUs and Tipping Point.
Bill challenges 'lifeblood of democracy'
Dave Timms, head of political affairs at Friends of the Earth, said: “The ability to make our voices heard through protest, and to hold those with power accountable for their actions, is the lifeblood of democracy. The Bill contains clauses that would criminalise peaceful protest, an essential means to hold the powerful to account in democracies worldwide, and make sure politicians act on their word.
“The list of authoritarian measures has grown as the Bill has progressed through parliament, creating the most extensive attack on the right to protest in living memory.
“We are asking the House of Lords to take a stand today and vote down these assaults on our rights and freedoms.”
Sam Grant, head of policy and campaigns at Liberty, said: “The Bill is an assault on our rights from a government that despises scrutiny and rejects accountability, which thinks the powerful should be above the law, and the most marginalised should be subject to ever more discrimination, coercion and control.
“These new powers are a threat to our rights, and an opportunistic move from a government determined to shut down dissent, stifle democratic scrutiny and make itself untouchable.”