The police bill is an attack on democracy, and an attempt to shut us up, but it can be resisted

Brian Eno

A Stop the War Coalition demonstration, 2007

The last few years have seen Britain gleefully sliding down a slow decline into a sort of neo-feudal condition. Brexit, UKIP, the destruction of the NHS, the worst Covid fatalities of any country… and lots more. Quite quickly, we have become a failed state – the first ‘developed’ country to re-enter the Third World.

But this decline is just about to accelerate to a whole new level. The government is intent on introducing a new bill that will make public protest in England effectively a thing of the past. The bill makes it possible for the police to arrest people – for example demonstrators – who they claim are putting others at risk of ‘serious annoyance’ or ‘serious inconvenience’. What else, please, is the point of demonstrating? To have a nice day in the park waving flags and strumming guitars? Demonstrating is about making so much noise that the government can’t fail to notice it, can’t pretend it didn’t know what the people were thinking. It is as central to the idea of democracy as voting.

The term ‘annoyance’ is so vague that it could be used in any context to shut anybody up. Indeed, this law would have shut down almost every demo we’ve ever had in this country.

At this time in our history, when most of the media serve the interests of the rich and those in government, practically the only way people ever find out that they’re not alone in wanting something different is through demonstrations. The solidarity is what counts, the knowledge that there are a lot of you, that you are not marginals, outliers.

I believe that this government is more instinctively fascistic than any we’ve ever had in our history. It’s a concealed version of fascism, obscured by Boris Johnson’s silly hair and Billy Bunterish joviality. But it shares with all the other neo-fascists – Orban, Le Pen, Bolsonaro, Duterte, Trump, Modi – a desire to exclude the population from the levers of decision-making as much as possible, so that those levers can be placed in the safe hands of chums, parasites and ass-lickers.

Democracy is about sharing power. Fascism is about concentrating and controlling it. Our government is doing everything to move away from the former towards the latter. Destroying the right to demonstrate is a way of saying to the people ‘just shut up and keep shopping’.

What should be our response to this? You guessed it: the biggest, rowdiest demo in British history. Then we’ll see Silly Billy’s true face.

17 Mar 2021

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