Four legal observers from the organisation Black Protest Legal Support were arrested by police despite wearing marked high-vis jackets in a demonstration against a crackdown on the right to protest.
Legal observers like @blkprotestlegal are not participating in protests, they are there to monitor the police to check human rights are being upheld. Arresting them is an attack on our human rights. The police are once again routinely abusing their existing powers. #KillTheBill https://t.co/ge2lmY7qqB
— #BlackLivesMatterUK (@ukblm) March 16, 2021
Legal observers are volunteers that act independently of the protest and are present in protest to provide legal support to protesters and to monitor the conduct of the police present.
In a statement from the group, they stated that the legal observers ‘fall squarely’ within one of the exemptions of the Coronavirus regulations for ‘the purpose of work or to provide voluntary or charitable services’. The group argues that they have the right to be present at protests and should not be prevented from monitoring the police through harassment or arrest’.
BPLS confirmed that the legal observers that had been arrested are all now represented by Black and Brown lawyers who are protest specialists.
The arrests were made in a protest against the anti-protests laws that has been proposed by the Government under the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill. On Tuesday, MPs have voted 359 to 263, a majority of 96, at the second reading of the Bill meaning that the legislation moves one step closer to becoming law.
The Labour MP Zarah Sultana called the Bill ‘an authoritarian attack on our fundamental right to protest’ and there was confirmation yesterday that’s progress through parliament be delayed.
‘The last week has shown that protest works,’ said a member from Sisters Uncut. ‘That’s why they want to ban it, and that’s why we’re fighting back. The coalition that is coming together shows just how many people are angry about the brutal reality of policing in this country’.