London — UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave the authorities permission to put an end to “disruptive” protests in the country. He unveiled a strategy in which he would support the police in their efforts to put an end to the nation’s increasingly disruptive demonstrations.
The UK government will broaden the legal definition of “serious disruption” through an amendment to the Public Order Bill, giving police greater flexibility and clarity over when to intervene to stop the disruptive minority that uses tactics like road blocking and slow marching to inflict suffering on the public.
The police had previously been granted authority to address “severe disruption”. However, police chiefs have informed the prime minister that there is significant ambiguity around what constitutes a “severe disruption”.
The government’s amendments today will give police officers complete clarity over when to intervene. Now, police can end protests before there is any disruption, and won’t have to wait for it to happen.
The police will be permitted to take into account long-term campaigns, intended to cause repeat disruption over a period of days or weeks, and will not have to classify a series of rallies by the same group as discrete events.
Sunak claimed that while the freedom to demonstrate is a cornerstone of democracy, it is not absolute. He said that there must be harmony between the rights of the hard-working majority to conduct their regular business and the rights of individuals.
“We cannot have protests conducted by a small minority disrupting the lives of the ordinary public. It’s not acceptable, and we’re going to bring it to an end. The police asked us for more clarity to crack down on these guerrilla tactics, and we have listened”, he said.
Police are not against protest, but there is a difference between protest and criminal activism, according to National Police Chiefs’ Council Lead for Public Order and Public Safety Chief Constable BJ Harrington. “We are committed to responding quickly and effectively to activists who deliberately disrupt people’s lives through dangerous, reckless, and criminal acts”, he added.
According to Harrington, “this amendment will help cops in taking action and making arrests if necessary”.