Expert comment: Policing lecturer responds to home secretary criticism of force
Following the Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s criticism of how the Metropolitan Police is handling pro-Palestinian protests, Dr Keith Silika, Policing Lecturer at the University of Salford, explains the legal basis for policing protests.
“The statement by the home secretary is problematic for several reasons. Police forces have to balance the right to free speech with assessing the risk to the public from any protest. It could have a chilling effect on free speech and the right to protest, if people believe that their protests could be stopped at any time without good reason. This is especially true for marginalised groups who may already feel intimidated by the police.
“It also undermines the principle of equality before the law. The home secretary seems to suggest that some protests are considered more worthy of protection than others, and that the police can decide which protests to allow based on their own subjective judgment. This is a dangerous precedent to set.
“The police should not have the power to ban or stop protests simply because they are disruptive. Protests are often disruptive by their very nature, but they are an essential part of a democracy. The police should only intervene in protests if there is a genuine threat to public safety or order.
“The home secretary has a responsibility to uphold the law and protect public safety. However, they should not use their position to influence the police's decisions about which protests to allow or stop. The police must have the independence to make these decisions based on the evidence and the law.”
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