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To save its democ­ra­cy, the UK should kill its new po­lice bill

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Imagine it is January 30, 1969, and you are walking by the Apple Corps headquarters on London’s famous Saville Row. Suddenly you hear something that stops you on your way – The Beatles is playing a live set on the rooftop of the building. For you, a Beatles fan, this is an unexpected, but much welcome gift. But you can see many shopkeepers clearly annoyed by the crowds congregating in the streets and on the roofs of nearby buildings.

Despite grumbling by some who perceive the music as nothing but noise and an unwelcome disturbance to a busy workday – perhaps even an act of defiance by music fans – The Beatles continues to play. Eventually, police officers ascend to the rooftop, and order the group to stop playing. But the intervention comes some 45 minutes after the beginning of the unauthorised performance. History has already been made. And nobody expects anyone, neither the band nor the audience, to face any further consequences for participating in the concert or gathering “illegally” in central London. Everyone continues with their day as if nothing had happened.

Now imagine the same concert is taking place in the near future, just after the passing of Boris Johnson government’s Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which is currently being debated at the House of Lords. With the new powers – and confidence – they obtained through the bill, coppers rush to the rooftop of the building, abruptly stop the show and arrest everyone there. Some of the people who “illegally” congregated on the street are also arrested. Those in custody, including The Beatles themselves, are looking at possibly spending months behind bars.

This is not just a bleak fantasy. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, if passed in its current form, would give powers to the police that may lead to such Orwellian scenarios. Indeed, under the new bill, those deemed to be causing a public nuisance – by making too much noise, blocking streets and storefronts, or generally “annoying” the public – can find themselves behind bars.

Of course, the main aim of this bill is not to stop surprise performances by beloved British bands – its goal is to stifle British people’s right to protest.

The new legislation proposes to give police new........

© Al Jazeera

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