By Nathan Findlay –
The last couple of weeks have seen a series of protests organised across both West Yorkshire and further afield in response to current issues such as the current COVID-19 restrictions, as well as the controversial Police, Sentencing and Courts Bill.
Bradford Anti-Lockdown Protest
On March 28 in Bradford, around 400 demonstrators marched through the city centre in protest against the government’s COVID-19 restrictions.
A total of nine police officers were injured during several clashes, including one instance where a group tried to make their way to a vaccination centre.
While West Yorkshire Police did note that the “majority” of demonstrators attended the protest peacefully, a total of 13 people were arrested for public order offences and 19 fines were issued for breaking current Covid restrictions.
Leeds ‘Kill the Bill’ Protest
A few days later, on April 2, around 1,500 people took part in a ‘Kill the Bill’ demonstration at Millennium Square in Leeds.
The ‘Bill’ in questions refers to the controversial Police, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which gives police new powers over peaceful protests.
Many say the new legislation gives the police too much power over how protests would be organised and run, dictating the start and finish times of protests as well as where they can march.
Despite such a large gathering on the day, no arrests were made by police and those attending the event in the main demonstrated social distancing and mask-wearing during the static demonstration.
In a statement on the protest, West Yorkshire Police Chief Superintendent, Kate Riley, said: “West Yorkshire Police is continuing to work hard to keep the public safe during the ongoing threat from Coronavirus and we are pleased [the] demonstration and march has passed off without incident.”
“Officers engaged with those present to ensure public safety.”
She added: “We are grateful that those who attended the demonstration did so peacefully, with no disorder or incidents of note occurring.”
Bradford and Leeds aren’t the only two places that have seen demonstrations in the last couple of weeks.
Since the highly volatile protests that took place in Bristol last month, many people in cities and towns across the UK have organised their own ‘Kill the Bill’ protests. However, none have reached the level of escalation as the ones seen in Bristol.
Saturday, April 3 saw a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest take place in Sheffield. Over 1,000 demonstrators marched through the city centre.
South Yorkshire Police said that no arrested were made and that those who attended did so peacefully.
Manchester has seen similar scenes over the past couple of weeks as several protests being held in and around St Peter’s Square on different occasions, the most recent also occurring on April 3.
The protest remained peaceful until near the end when a fight broke out amongst a small group of protestors.
York, Lincoln, Nottingham and many other cities saw similar demonstrations. The vast majority passed without incident, with mask-wearing and social distancing maintained, which appeared to be police forces’ primary concern.
With the bill as controversial as this one, it comes as no surprise that people are putting their thoughts and opinions out there and joining in with the protests.
As always it’s disappointing when a small minority looks to take advantage of peaceful demonstrations in order to cause trouble and damage.
The ongoing pandemic and restrictions have certainly not helped, with many new rules and regulations making things even more complicated for both people wishing to follow social-distancing rules while attending, and the police who have to enforce those rules.
The hope is always that the public’s voice is heard, and that that voice is shared in a positive and peaceful way.