Reader’s letter to his Conservative MP: defend the right to peaceful assembly!

Crowds assembling peacefully in Parliament Square for the People’s Vote March, 18 June 2018. Photo by Sealord Photography; right to reproduce purchased by Devon for Europe

Dear Mr Parish,

As long as laws are made in Parliament, then British people must have a legal right to protest them in Parliament Square. Democracy is not an ‘inconvenience’. Public opposition and dissent are among the hard-won rights that make our democratic system function. Seeking to limit noise levels so people cannot be heard, and preventing people from assembling outside Parliament so they cannot be seen – these are the words and actions of authoritarians.

I’m writing to beseech you to oppose these provisions in this unnecessary, draconian legislation.You know that it’s wrong. I know that in your heart you are not an authoritarian. I have heard you speak often enough to know that you do value real freedom. Not just free enterprise, but also freedom of expression.

The UK Parliament’s Joint Human Rights Committee has declared that that the Bill’s provisions to restrict and criminalise peaceful protest are in violation of human rights, and called for these parts of the Bill to be withdrawn. Your own Parliament’s specialist committee.

The Bill’s provisions of heavy prison sentences for non-violent public protests are “calculated to intimidate and deter” any sequel to the anti-Brexit protests which twice brought in million-strong marches to Westminster during 2019.

Devon for Europe protestors at the march for a final say on the Brexit deal in London.

Please note, I am not seeking to re-litigate the Brexit issue here. However, it’s worth noting that these protests are the cause of your authoritarian colleagues drafting these provisions. What was wrong with those legitimate protests?

Those were entirely peaceful protests. Over a million of us marched peacefully through London, twice. Stood peacefully outside Parliament and listened to speeches. Then we peacefully dispersed and made our way back to our respective homes, from Shetland to the Isles of Scilly.

The only recorded arrests were among a group of around 200 extreme nationalists who were staging a counter-protest to our own. The police successfully kettled these drunk and violent counter-protesters off the edge of Parliament Square, using their existing powers. A small number of these people were arrested, charged and successfully prosecuted under existing legislation for drunk and disorderly behaviour, assault and resisting arrest.

It does not take a degree level knowledge of jurisprudence to recognise this bill as part of a concerted assault by this government on constitutional democratic checks, including independent public service broadcasting, parliamentary scrutiny and judicial review.

Please break from the pack and resist this move toward tyranny. Let the historical record show that when the time came, you were honest and brave. Your seat is not under threat. You command a significant majority. You can afford to put your shoulder to the wheel of freedom at this vital time.

Act now, please. Generations to come are counting on your honesty and bravery. Democracy is counting on your honesty and bravery.

Once again, I am not seeking to re-litigate the Brexit issue here. That has happened and we are all working with the consequences. I have drawn your attention to our marches because they prove conclusively that hundreds of thousands of people can and have assembled peacefully outside the building in which you represent us. There is enough legislation on the books already to control anti-social behaviour.

Please actively oppose and vote down this Bill’s draconian provisions.

Tiverton and Honiton constituent