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Extinction Rebellion hosting Funeral For Democracy event in Inverness to protest Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill

By Garry McCartney

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Demonstrators standing with mouths taped up outside Moray MP Douglas Ross' office in protest over the new Policing Bill last month.
Demonstrators standing with mouths taped up outside Moray MP Douglas Ross' office in protest over the new Policing Bill last month.

PROTESTORS from Forres will join a demonstration in Inverness against legislation currently passing through the House of Lords.

Extinction Rebellion (XR) Forres and XR Highland and Islands are hosting a 'Funeral For Democracy' event, part of a national day of action against the controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill, starting at the town hall on High Street at noon before moving through through the city centre to Falcon Square where there will be a speech and a 15 minute vigil.

Former teaching assistant, Julia Tucknott, from Forres confirmed the latest amendments to the bill can fail if the Lords vote against them on Monday, January 17.

She said: "This bill fails to recognise the positive social changes that we have benefited from – including universal emancipation and equal rights for women – thanks to those who were brave enough to fight for a better more civilised society through, often noisy and disruptive, non-violent, direct action.

"We need to stand up, in solidarity with our fellow citizens in England and Wales, and say no to this erosion of the rights for which people have fought so hard and for which the UK is respected around the world."

In March last year, the UK Government produced the PCSC Bill, more than 300 pages of proposals to limit the ability to protest freely.

The bill contains: new powers for the police to stop-and-search without having to give a reason; powers for the police to break doctor-patient confidentiality; provisions that effectively criminalise the way of life of gypsy and traveller communities; and restrictions on demonstrations including 10-year jail terms for anyone found guilty of causing (or causing risk of) serious annoyance whilst protesting.

Despite warnings from across the political spectrum, as well as from police chiefs, academics, religious leaders, human rights groups, and Government Parliamentary committees, the Bill passed through the House of Commons and is now being debated in the House of Lords.

In December, the Government tabled amendments including protest-banning orders which can be imposed on people who have been to two protests in the past five years.

Although parts of the Bill do not apply in Scotland, Scots have historically travelled to Westminster to protest laws that are not devolved to the Scottish Parliament. Scots joining protests in England and Wales will be subject to the new restrictions if the Bill is passed.

Dressed in black, protestors will march in silence through Inverness with their mouths taped up to symbolise the threat to silence protest and eroding democratic rights in the UK.

Retired primary school teacher from Elgin, Frances Wardhaugh, added: "The PCSC Bill attacks our right to dissent and campaign.

"This Bill undermines our right to protest at a critical juncture in the fight to avoid climate breakdown."

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