Peaceful protest in the UK has a long, proud history. Many of the rights and freedoms we enjoy today were won because people were prepared to protest – from women's right to vote, to the right to be protected from discrimination and workers’ right to be part of a trade union.
Since the Human Rights Act came into force in 2000 we have had a legally protected right to peaceful protest. However, in recent years laws have been passed which give the police even more powers to make protest difficult and which have made it is easier for companies to try to prevent you from protesting.
The right to protest is a vital part of our democracy, and Liberty will continue campaigning to protect it.
In 2010 we secured a major victory – the European Court ruling in the Gillan and Quinton v UK case which confirmed stop and search powers under section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, which had been widely used against protesters, breached human rights law. This provision has now been repealed and replaced.
In 2011 we secured another victory. Sections 132 - 138 of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act (SOCPA), which unjustifiably restricted protest around Parliament, were repealed. Unfortunately, in the same year, new restrictions on protest in Parliament Square were imposed under the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011. Liberty continues to lobby for reform to protect the right to protest at the seat of British democracy.
'Kettling' is a police tactic whereby large numbers of protesters are detained within a cordon, often for several hours, trapping the innocent and vulnerable with the guilty and hostile, spreading alarm and frustration and potentially making a bad situation worse.