Thousands gather in Manchester city centre for anti-police bill and Reclaim These Streets protests
St Peter’s square was filled with thousands of protesters who listened to activists speak
The event was initially planned to take place at Piccadilly Gardens but was moved to St Peter’s Square due to an anti-mask protest
Police filmed protesters, citing evidence gathering as the reason
Thousands of protesters gathered in Manchester’s St Peter’s Square yesterday evening to speak out against violence to women and the proposed new police and crime bill.
The protest was also held to show opposition to the proposed Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill which will give the police greater power when it comes to protests.
The new bill will make it possible for police to impose a start and finish time and set noise limits, as well as issue fines of up to £2,500.
A part of the bill concerning many, is the measure that makes it possible for a prison sentence of up to 10 years to be given for defacing statues.
Police lined the streets during the protest, handing out ‘overt filming subject notice’ flyers to protesters, and filming the event for evidence gathering procedures.
— The Northern Quota (@northernquota) March 20, 2021
After being moved at the last minute from Piccadilly Gardens to St Peter’s Square in response to an anti-mask protest, several activists spoke out about issues including the bill, violence towards women and Black Lives Matter.
Emma, a 45-year-old mental health nurse, feels that the police shouldn’t be awarded more powers by further government policy.
Emma said: “The police are underfunded and aren’t in a position to put powers in place over protests which are so important at the moment.
“The misogyny and violence against women are particularly rife. The more police have control to stop these [protests] from happening, the more problems we’ll get.”
Referring to her job within the NHS, Emma added: “Anything that prevents freedom of speech, anything that infringes on people’s right to express themselves is by definition going to be detrimental to their mental health.”
Video by Georgina Randall.
26-year-old poet Rhys believes that local votes are a small way to make a difference.
“You’ve got to use your vote to show your voice, have a look at who’s running. Look at how you can push them to stand for you.”
Rhys was anxious to let women in his group speak before he did, but his female friends agreed he could put their message to the Northern Quota best: “A lot of women here have far better views on what’s going on at the minute, but I wanted to put something [on his handmade sign] that I could speak about and this is an issue with men and masc presenting people everywhere.
“I’m glad that the bill has been paused until later in the year, but we have to keep up the fight.”
Student Annie, 23, attended the protest with her friends and said: “I don’t know a single woman who hasn’t had a negative experience at the hands of man.”
She added: “This new bill will give even more power to uniformed police officers during events which are our right to hold to fight for our human rights.
“It’s so inspiring to see so many here tonight, if we don’t fight, soon we’ll have no rights at all.
“Kill the bill.”
A Reclaim These Streets protest is expected to take place at the same time next week to keep up momentum whilst the bill continues to be discussed in the House of Commons.