In a grotesque performance of deliberate public silencing of protest the extremely political Metropolitan Police (the Met.) arrested anti-Brexit protestor Steve Bray outside Houses Of Parliament yesterday (28th June 2022), issued him with a charge and stole his property.
Yesterday was the first day that an authoritarian anti-protest, anti-democracy, anti-liberty law was operational. The new law, resulting from Police Crime Sentencing and Courts Act (PCSCA), appeals to police forces because they can interpret it as permission to stop every protest without the need to make decisions about whether a protest should proceed and without the need to give an explanation to protestors about police actions.
The police performance yesterday, including several actors (police officers), was planned in advance. Mr. Bray was chosen as the first recipient of PCSCA because his protests are successful: Clips of his protests are very popular in independent and social media and points he has raised, often after engagement with politicians, drive some debates on mainstream media. Recorded reactions of some politicians to his questions reveal their contempt for the public and for accountability.
By targetting a popular and well-known protestor and doing so in broad daylight in front of a variety of cameras the Met. conveyed a threatening message to everybody else who might consider protesting: A threat of prosecution, theft of property, violence and theft of money (via fines).
Tory government abhors opposition. Via a bag of new authoritarian laws it is erasing the right to protest. The Met. and other police forces like their jobs to be as easy as possible; straightforward fascist law is easier to implement than laws that include human rights, access to liberty and balance.
Under the stewardship of Cressida Dick, The Met. became increasingly more political. Continuous exposure of recent police wrongdoing, incompetence and bias made more people aware of the force’s embedded racism, political imbalance, laziness and manipulation of laws. Its willingness to assist Boris Johnson and his fellow “work event” attendees dodge prosecution for Covid-related lawbreaking reduced public trust in the police. The Met. reacted to loss of trust and increase of criticism of it by issuing much larger fines to women who attended a vigil for Sarah Everard (murdered by a Met. police officer) and it used falsely a procedure to deny them an opportunity to appear in court to defend themselves.
Despite some disputes between them, Tory government and the Met. agree on laws and police actions that deny right to protest, that silence free speech and that erase liberty. Neither institution is worthy of respect. Both deserve contempt.
Steve Bray is a determined person who will not easily be cowed. It is not necessary to agree with his political stance or his tactics of protest to know that his human right to continue protesting directly at the corruption and criminality of the government must be supported. Supporting him is supporting yourself.