UK privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch Thursday reported that police are disproportionately using existing stop and search powers to target protesters. This comes as the Government is planning even more protest crackdowns through the Public Order Bill, the human rights group said on Twitter. According to the UK Government, the bill aims to “give police the tools they need to tackle dangerous and highly disruptive tactics, used by a small minority of protestors, to wreak havoc for people going about their daily lives.”
Big Brother Watch analyzed stop and search data for central London, the arena where most of the UK’s significant protests occur, for the summers of 2020 and 2021. The group noted:
The group has since set up a petition to remove “these disturbing & anti-democratic powers from the Bill”. The petition has received 81,615 of 100,000 signatures by 4:30pm BST on August 18, 2022.
They stated that “Under this new anti-protest law, the police will be given powers to monitor campaigners using electronic GPS tags, restrict their internet activities and prevent them from attending protests. These are some of the most disturbing and anti-democratic police powers introduced in the UK for decades.” The group went on to say that the uses of tags “would be controversial in Russia and China – we cannot allow them in a democratic country like the UK.”
Big Brother Watch hopes that the government will stop processing the Public Order Bill. This comes after other human rights groups such as Liberty had similar reservations.