Pre-emptive Strikes

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The British government is planning to give police more powers to shut down protests that are deemed disruptive, a move that human rights groups have criticized as an attack on the right to protest, the Evening Standard reported.

The amended Public Order Bill will give officers greater clarity about when they can stop demonstrations that cause “serious disruption,” such as blocking roads or slow marching. The changes would allow authorities to shut down the protests before they take place.

Other clauses would also criminalize protest tactics such as locking on – where protesters physically attach themselves to objects or buildings – and order individuals who demonstrate regularly to wear electronic tags, according to CNN.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak backed the bill, saying that while protesting is “a fundamental principle of our democracy,” it is “not absolute.” Police chiefs also support the changes, noting that the amended bill would expand the legal definition of serious disruption.

But protest groups and human rights organizations worried that such legislation “sets a dangerous precedent,” while opposition politicians called it an attempt to distract the public from other issues affecting the United Kingdom.

Critics noted that the bill will target groups such as Black Lives Matter, Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil, all of which are known for their disruptive tactics.

The bill is due to be debated in the upper house of Parliament shortly.

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