Our thoughts and prayers are with Sarah Everard’s family. The Home Secretary will be aware that the whole nation was upset by the images of women who had come to a peaceful vigil about violence against women finding themselves wrestled to the ground and handcuffed by police officers. The statement by the Metropolitan police sought to justify what happened on Saturday by talking about
“the overriding need to protect people’s safety”.
Is she aware that some people are puzzled by the idea that you can make people safe by manhandling them and handcuffing them?
In relation to the policing Bill, which the House will be debating later, the Home Secretary herself has made it clear that it is expressly designed to crack down on peaceful protests by groups such as Extinction Rebellion and Black Lives Matter. She described the peaceful protests by Black Lives Matter as “dreadful”. Can she understand why many people in this country believe that giving the police even more powers to crack down on peaceful protest can only lead to more distressing scenes like those the nation witnessed on Saturday at the vigil on Clapham common?
With respect to the right hon. Lady, I urge her not to be so judgmental with regards to the events on Saturday evening until we see the report that comes from Her Majesty’s inspectorate of constabulary. She will have plenty of opportunity to discuss protest and police powers during the passage of the Bill, but I would like to say this: in recent years, we have seen a significant change in protest tactics, which has led to disruption and also to violence and people’s lives being endangered. I look forward to the debate with her on this particular point later on, but she is absolutely wrong in her characterisation of the measures we are introducing.