New laws like the Police and Crime Bill 2022, Public Order Act 2023 and Criminal Justice Bill 2023 have drastically changed police powers in the UK. Despite “deeply disturbing” handling of crowds at events like a vigil for Sarah Everard in 2021, we are starting to see the effects in cases like Phoebe Plummer’s.
There are obvious and worrying parallels with treatment of Suffragettes like Bertha Ryland and Just Stop Oil campaigners like Pheobe Plummer, including treatment in the press. Mainstream press has either ignored the story or sexualise, ridicule and demonize her (as they did the Suffragettes) like the Daily Mail, calling her ‘an eco-zealot’ and alongside the story, for no apparent reason, posting social media images of her dressing up.
It took 8 officers to arrest her – she offered no resistance. She will likely now be six months in prison for slight damage to a picture frame and breaking bail by taking part in a legal slow march crossing a road at a crossing. What effect will this massive public spend have?
“I will continue to march while they continue to licence new oil, gas and coal. How many more children have to die before you listen? How many more floods have to wipe out entire villages? How many people will die before you stop sending people like me to prison? Sir Mark Rowley has been handed a dossier of evidence. Why won’t you investigate the real criminals?”Pheobe Plummer in Dazed
“The wording of the government’s new law is so vague that anything deemed by police to cause ‘more than a minor’ disturbance could have restrictions imposed upon it. This has serious implications for everyone’s right to stand up for the things they believe in.” (Katy Watts, a lawyer acting for Liberty)
As well as protest and civil liberty groups, last year 350 charities signed a letter and more than 800,000 people signed a petition, and protest marches all calling to scrap the Police and Crime Bill which has now passed into law. 700 academics came out against the proposals and parliament’s joint committee on human rights said the proposals are “oppressive and wrong”.
What is worse, the campaign group Rights of Women has also criticised for the bill for failing to introduce long-called-for measures that it says would reduce violence against women and girls.
The government claim the new ‘Criminal Justice Bill 2023’ will address this. It will also increase sentencing and establish powers to transfer prisoners in and out of England and Wales to serve their sentence abroad
Women’s Aid says it ‘does not do enough to tackle deep-rooted failings impacting survivors‘.
Pheobe Plummer’s treatment highlights how our legal system and mainstream press protects corporate interests at her/our expense.
We need to work together to protect our rights and shine a light on injustice. Regardless of how the legal system changes protesters will find new ways to protest to engage audiences, catch headlines and influence change.
16 Days of Activism runs from 25th November, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, to 10th December, Human Rights Day – look out for what’s going on locally for you and support where you can. e.g. Library of Birmingham unveiling Ophelia’s ‘Cloak of Power representing lives and stories of women at the Library of Birmingham.