What is the public order act?
The Public Order Act became law in early May, after a several months long attempt by the House of Lords to block the legislation failed. The Act is intended to hand new powers to police (because if anyone needs more help, it’s them!) to deal with the ‘guerrilla tactics’ employed by some of the more disruptive protest groups, such as Just Stop Oil and Extinction Rebellion.
It will now be a criminal offence to ‘attach’ yourself to buildings or objects, a common tactic employed by Just Stop Oil in recent months. Such actions will now result in a year long jail term or unlimited fine.
People that protest by obstructing railways and motorways could now face the same penalty.
It also adds protection for journalists covering protests, who now cannot be arrested for reporting on a protest.
WHAT THE CRITICS SAY
Critics of the Act point to it, along with recent legislation aimed at limiting industrial action by unions such as the RMT, as a worrying and authoritarian step from a government hell-bent on kneecapping protest.
It has been claimed that innocent members of the public could be arrested with little to no justification and that legal protests could be unfairly curtailed.
The powers were employed for the first time before King’s coronation, with six members of the pressure group Republic arrested because the police ‘suspected’ they would attempt to disrupt the ceremony.
WHAT THE GOVERNMENT SAYS
The government says it ‘fully supports’ the right to peaceful protest and claims the Act is necessary only to target the ‘small minority’ of non-peaceful protests.
Labour has condemned the Act, but has not done as much as expected.
They have claimed that policing Just Stop Oil has cost the taxpayer more than £14.5m and that the measures are ‘proportionate’ and comply with the European Convention on Human Rights.