Rishi Sunak backs new police crackdown on eco protesters as ministers eye plans to stop ‘go-slow’ demos
- Protesters changed tactics to include slowing traffic to a crawling pace
- Just Stop Oil activists last month led walking protests in London in rush hour
- Downing Street said an amendment will be tabled to the Public Order Bill
Police will have the power to stop ‘go-slow’ protests before they cause chaos under a law being proposed by ministers.
He said the legislation would strike a better balance between the right to protest and ‘the rights of the hard-working majority to go about their day-to-day business’.
It comes after climate protesters changed tactics in recent weeks to include slowing traffic to a crawling pace with walking protests on busy roads through cities.
Police will have the power to stop ‘go-slow’ protests before they cause chaos under a law being proposed by ministers
Just Stop Oil activists last month led walking protests in London during rush hour, blocking three lanes on both sides of the A2, in Southwark, before launching another similar blockade in the City.
Downing Street said an amendment will be tabled to the Public Order Bill in the coming days.
This will broaden the legal definition of ‘serious disruption’, giving police greater ability and clarity over when to intervene.
Under the proposed change, if a slow walk begins and officers assess that it could cause serious disruption, they can shut it down before chaos erupts. They will first be able to place conditions on the slow walk, requiring that it proceeds on the pavement instead.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last night said the planned crackdown would end new forms of ‘guerrilla tactics’ being used by eco-zealots from groups such as Just Stop Oil
If protesters refuse, officers would be able to remove them. The idea would be for potential incidents to be dealt with within minutes rather than hours.
Police will also not need to treat a series of protests by the same group as standalone incidents, but will be able to consider their total impact. This includes long-running campaigns designed to cause repeat disruption over days or weeks.
Mr Sunak said: ‘The right to protest is a fundamental principle of our democracy, but this is not absolute. A balance must be struck between the rights of individuals and the rights of the hard-working majority to go about their day-to-day business.’
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act, passed last year, was intended to restrict disruptive protests by increasing penalties.
Sir Mark Rowley, head of the Metropolitan Police Service, said he ‘welcomed’ the proposed amendment, which is currently in the House of Lords. He said: ‘In practical terms, Parliament providing such clarity will create a clearer line for the police to enforce when protests impact upon others who simply wish to go about their lawful business.’