10 Years for Defacing a Statue, 5 Years for Rape

Why we should all be afraid of the government’s new policing bill

Flowers and tributes for Sarah Everard and victims of male violence at Clapham Common. Photo by Author

You may have missed the government’s new police, crime, sentencing and courts bill. The British media, usually so loud and brutal, have remained uncharacteristically tight-lipped on the issue.

The legislation, which the government tried to force through the house this week, proposes that the maximum sentence for defacing a statue be increased from 6 months to 10 years, double the minimum sentence for rape.

The bill is more concerned with protecting the bronze likeness of Winston Churchill than the living, breathing bodies of sexual assault victims. It places the rights of inanimate statues above the rights of animate women. We’re really through the looking glass now, folks.

And the timing couldn’t be worse. Last weekend, police forcibly removed women from a candlelit vigil for Sarah Everard and victims of male violence. The images were shocking, especially since a serving police officer had been charged with the murder.

A stark message amongst the flowers. Photo by Author

The reputation of the police is at an all-time low and the patriarchy is under the spotlight. At a time like this, the public needs politicians that are able to read the national mood. It’s astonishing then that this 307-page bill doesn’t mention women once, nor does it specifically address rape, harassment and stalking.

And that’s not even the scariest thing about the bill.

It also gives the police the power to silence protests. If protestors are deemed too “noisy” or are causing “serious disruption” to people in the vicinity, the police can shut down the demonstration.

Creating noise and disruption are the archetypes of a successful protest. If the suffragettes hadn’t caused noise and disruption, I wonder if women would have the right to vote today.

The language in the bill is intentionally vague too. What constitutes noise and serious disruption? Could it be the protests that the government most disagrees with? BLM and Extinction Rebellion come to mind.

We’ve seen similar things happen in Myanmar and Hong Kong. When the protests become too successful, the crackdown begins.

We are expecting a motherlode of protests this summer. All that pent-up energy and frustration needs to be expelled somewhere. Even the policing bill itself is likely to encourage activists to take to the streets.

British actor Hugh Laurie supports the right to protest noisily

It’s as if the government is deliberately raising tensions in hope that protestors can be denigrated throughout the year as a ‘Woke mob’ that seeks to ‘cancel culture’.

It’s ironic then that the ‘cancel culture’ brigade, the so-called defenders of free speech, have remained completely and utterly silent as Home Secretary Priti Patel pushes this bill through parliament.

Where was the Daily Mail’s frontpage scoop: Government Silences Free Speech?

Why didn’t the Telegraph run with: Priti Patel Cancels the Great British Protest?

Where were the right-wing Twitter trolls? Where was Piers Morgan?

All in hiding it would seem… waiting for the next story to pounce on. The anti-Woke gang aren’t actually interested in the sanctity of free speech; they just don’t like their prejudices being challenged. For years, they have conflated free speech with ‘the right to offend’.

“You can’t say anything anymore!” they cry, whenever someone challenges their racial slurs.

“Boys will be boys!” they say, when a group of lads makes sexually violent jokes about women over a pint.

“We will say what we please!” they shout, when asked to use the correct gender pronouns.

But when the government takes the first step towards banning protests like dictators have done throughout history, what do these people have to say?

Nothing.

And when the government proposes that vandals serve more time in prison than rapists, what do we hear from the guardians of free speech?

Silence.

As pleasant as it is to see these normally aggressive bullies muted, this is actually the time when a bit of that relentless rage could be constructively repurposed to protect our withering democracy.

I don’t like scaremongering, so when I say that we should be scared of this bill, I do not say it lightly. I also don’t use the F-word often, but this looks like the first step towards Fascism. History has taught us that.

Fortunately, we have a few things to be optimistic about. A feminist group called Sisters Uncut recently managed to successful delay the government’s bill.

The message is clear. The mainstream media may be wilfully ignoring the story, but the movement is building. The more the government tries to silence the British public, the more noise it will make.

I’ve heard rumblings of peaceful protests against the policing bill that might take place if Covid dies down in June, echoing the BLM demonstrations of last summer. This might be our final chance to speak up legally before millions of protestors are criminalised overnight.

Let’s not waste the opportunity. Let’s not sleepwalk into authoritarianism. Let’s get out there and make some noise.

They can’t lock all of us up, can they?

Originally published at https://woke-news.com on March 19, 2021.

British political blogger focusing on social and racial justice, exposing right-wing media misinformation. Also currently writing my first novel.

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