The Runnymede Trust voices its profound concern with the Home Secretary’s recent interventions regarding ongoing protests in relation to Palestine.
The Home Secretary’s letter to Chief Constables, published earlier this month, represents a significant overstep in directing police action against displays of solidarity with Palestine and its people. We echo the statement made by leading civil rights organisation, Liberty, about the way in which the Home Secretary’s rhetoric impacts people’s understanding of their right to protest and freedom of expression.
As one of the UK’s leading anti-racist organisations, we are disturbed by the way in which interventions restricting people’s right to protest impacts people of colour in the UK. This follows the restrictions outlined in the Public Order Act (2023), which amongst other things contain enhanced stop and search powers in relation to suspected protest-related offences. Increased police powers such as these disproportionately impact people of colour, Black men in particular, who are significantly more likely to be stopped and searched and face traumatic and often violent police encounters as a result.
Protest is a vital means for advancing issues of racial and social justice in this country. It is a fundamental pillar of democracy. We oppose cynical attempts to use the heartbreaking realities of violence abroad to curtail hard-won rights to express dissent about the most pressing issues in our society.
We are horrified at the rising Islamophobic and Antisemitic violence in the UK and across Europe at this time. Instead of seeking to restrict freedom of expression, the government must recognise its responsibility to act as a guardian of the people and focus its efforts on protecting Jewish and Muslim communities, who are facing intolerable acts of hatred at an extremely disturbing level. To those communities, we offer our unwavering solidarity at this incredibly difficult time.
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On matters concerning racial justice, we have something to say.