- Created: Thursday, 03 December 2015 11:16
- Written by Robert Claridge
Four Liverpool women charged with breach of Section 35 of the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act will face trial in February 2016. Section 35 gives police (with local authority agreement) the powers to disperse protests and protesters from a specified area for 48 hours based on criteria they can decide at the time they issue the order. Liverpool Council is one of only a few authorities to support the use of these dispersal powers.
Since their arrest at the end of April outside the occupied Bank of England building in the city centre, the four defendants have had to attend court on 12 occasions as the prosecution have constantly failed to provide any evidence for the charges - other than police statements at the most recent hearing in October.
The 2014 Act is the latest in a long list of repressive laws all designed to undermine effective protest. The state is gearing up to suppress resistance to austerity and other attacks on the working class. Liverpool Council is an enthusiastic supporter of these repressive measures. At the end of October, it initiated a ‘public consultation’ on a draconian order under Section 59 of the Act which would ban protests from the city centre for three years. The consultation continued for nearly three weeks. Then, with adverse publicity building up, Mayor Joe Anderson withdrew it, claiming he had known nothing about it in the first place.
Liverpool defend the right to protest, a campaign set up in defence of the four, regards these charges as politically motivated, and represent a further attack on those who participated in or supported the Love Activist occupation of the Bank of England. The campaign has no doubt that Mayor Anderson, the City Council, and Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy as much as Merseyside police were behind the use of these dispersal orders in April, and behind their first use against pro-Palestine protesters in November 2014. The campaign aims to mobilise the widest possible support for the four defendants because the Act represents a fundamental attack on the rights of free assembly and protest.