Demand that the National Police Chiefs Council adopts a new, eleven-point Charter for Freedom of Assembly Rights – or explain why they refuse to do so.

The government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill is an unprecedented attack on the freedom to protest. We have to fight against this Bill.

But we need more than opposition – that’s why we’re launching a new Charter For Freedom of Assembly Rights.

For the last decade, successive governments have been increasingly hostile towards protests. This has been matched by the way the police have interpreted “peaceful” protest so that even minor breaches of the law are treated as invalidating the collective legitimacy of protesters’ demands, justifying even more aggressive tactics and more surveillance.

Backed by a coalition of other organisations, Netpol’s Charter for Freedom of Assembly Rights sets out what people taking part in protests have the right to expect from the police. The Charter calls for:    

  • Proper protections – not more restrictions – for the right to protest. This includes an end to treating direct action and civil disobedience as an excuse to shut down protests completely.  
  • An end to routine surveillance of protesters. This includes strict limitations on the use of police video recording, use of facial recognition, and surveillance of social media sites used by campaigners. 
  • An end to the excessive use of force and the targeting of organisers for arrest, surveillance and punishment. Black-led protests in particular disproportionately face excessive and violent interventions by police. 
  • An end to targeting the most vulnerable. The police have a particular duty to protect the rights of young people, vulnerable and disabled people wishing to exercise their rights to freedom of assembly.

Netpol's Charter For Freedom of Assembly Rights

The Eleven Points of the Charter

ONE: Public assemblies need not only facilitation, but also protection
TWO: Public assemblies need protection based on equality and non-discrimination
THREE: Potential disruption is not an automatic excuse for denying protection for assemblies
FOUR: The use of civil disobedience and direct action tactics are not an automatic excuse for denying protection for assemblies
FIVE: The use of police powers to collectively restrict the right to freedom of assembly is justifiable only in exceptional circumstances
SIX: Although public assemblies are collective activities, protesters are individually rather than collectively responsible for their actions
SEVEN: Choosing to take part in a public assembly is not an invitation to surveillance and denial of privacy
EIGHT: Organisers of public assemblies, not the police, must decide their level of communication and dialogue
NINE: Independent monitoring of the policing of protests is essential for defending the right to organise and participate in public assemblies
TEN: Imposing financial burdens on organisers restricts the right to freedom of assembly
ELEVEN: The police have a particular duty to protect the rights of vulnerable or disabled people wishing to exercise their rights to freedom of assembly

What is the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill?

Awarding the police new powers to clamp down on protests they deem “disruptive”, the Bill introduces new powers for policing demonstrations and makes huge changes to public order legislation to allow police to criminalise anyone using civil disobedience and direct action tactics.

Born out of the Home Secretary’s fury at the Black Lives Matter movement and the government’s frustration with trying to contain Extinction Rebellion protests, these draconian new laws are a threat to any protest group who take to the streets.

These changes must be opposed. Netpol have launched an urgent petition calling on the National Police Chiefs Council to adopt new guidelines to protect the right to protest – or explain why they refuse to do so. Add your name today.

Rather than continuing to ask the police and other authorities for greater transparency and getting nowhere, we think it’s time we collectively started offering some solutions of our own. That’s why we’ve developed the Charter for Freedom of Assembly Rights. 

Fighting the Bill is important, but this will be a long struggle and it goes beyond Parliament. We need to organise. Sign up to Netpol and join the fight.

 

Netpol’s Charter for Freedom of Assembly Rights is endorsed by a growing list of organisations. To add yours, email info@netpol.org

Support Netpol

It takes time and energy to defend our right to freely assemble in public without facing the threat of arrest or harassment from the police – and it takes the support of people like you.