IWW Kill the Bill statement
CN: racist, gendered & state violence
The days since a vigil for Sarah Everard, a woman (allegedly) murdered by a serving Metropolitan police officer was brought to a violent end by his self-same colleagues, have seen a wave of protest against police violence, which has been answered only with increased police violence, taking place in towns and cities across the country against the Police, Crimes, Sentencing and Courts bill, which passed its second reading on 16th March. Protesters in Bristol have been attacked with dogs, horses, batons and CS gas and a protester in Manchester was partially stripped and dragged away half-naked in front of watching cameras by police.
Violent state repression of protest and industrial action is nothing new: from Tonypandy to Glasgow’s Bloody Friday, to Orgreave to last summer’s Black Lives Matter protests, which saw protesters being charged by mounted police, and led to the Met asking the Home Secretary Priti Patel for increased powers to quash protest. As ever, protest by the most marginalised and criminalised faces the fiercest repression, with Black Lives Matter organisers being systematically harassed by the police and independent legal observers from mainly black, brown or racialised groups arrested at a London #KillTheBill demo.
The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) exists as an organisation of free workers supporting one another and striving to create a society in which workers control their own labour and receive its full value. To do so it is necessary to protest, picket and to organise publicly. As anyone who’s ever been on a picket line will know, for a worker protest to be effective it needs to be attention-grabbing, and part of that is being annoying and disruptive – we’re not sure how a picket which isn’t disruptive can be effective!
The language used in the bill currently making its way through Parliament is intentionally vague. Any kind of protest that could be considered to be “annoying” or “disruptive” – or that even risks causing annoyance or disruption – could be shut down and protesters punished with prison. Crucially, the list of those who are at-risk-of-being annoyed is not limited to people, but includes the workplaces we strike against, and the government. Most worryingly of all, Priti Patel gets a blank cheque to have the final say on what is, or isn’t, in her eyes, a “serious disruption”.
The wording of the bill covers almost every form of picket, workers’ protest or other industrial action. It represents an existential threat to workers’ organising and to protest more broadly. The repression that we have seen to date has been enabled by the existing powers that police already hold. This bill effectively outlaws protest.
But the bill doesn’t stop at a heavy-handed crackdown on protest. It criminalises the culture and way of life of Roma and Traveller communities, and threatens to take away their homes and lock them up. It makes the lives of unhoused people ever more difficult. It allows police to stop and search those already convicted of certain offences without needing a reason, at a time when young black men in London are already 19 times more likely to be stopped and searched than anyone else. It protects the statues of slave traders from ‘harm’ using the threat of up to ten years in prison, in a clear and blatant attack on Black Lives Matter.
The police do not keep us safe. They do not keep racialised workers safe, who proportionately die in police custody twice as often when force is used. They did not keep Sarah Reed safe, who was beaten in police custody and later found dead in her cell in HMP Holloway. They did not keep sisters Bibaa Henry and Nicole Smallman safe, even in death, with Met police officers taking selfies next to their dead bodies and posting them to WhatsApp. They do not keep sex workers safe, carrying out raids and arresting migrant sex workers and taking them to detention centres to be deported.
They do not keep workers who are women, or of marginalised genders, safe. From 2015 to 2017, there were 415 referrals to the Independent Office for Police Conduct solely for abuse of position for a sexual purpose.
We reject this attack on workers’ ability to collectively organise; and we reject this attack on the lives and existence of marginalised and criminalised workers, who have always borne the brunt of the state’s violence.
We echo the calls of others to resist any attempt to divide those coming together in opposition to this bill by offering concessions that might benefit some among us, but do nothing to stop our comrades from being thrown under the bus; or by pushing for carceral amendments.
We stand in solidarity with all of our fellow workers, and we will continue to resist. This isn’t over.
In love, solidarity and rage,
The London branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW)
Going on a protest? Stay safe and know your rights
Share Green and Black Cross’ key messages about your rights on protests on social media:
Not on social media? You can find the key messages on the Green and Black Cross website (every page has a printable version which can be freely printed and distributed):
Download printable bustcards (pocket-sized cards with info about your rights) covering the
whole of England, Wales and Northern Ireland (see @activists_legal for Scotland):
Black Protest Legal Support are black and brown lawyers supporting racialised protesters and monitoring the police at protests:
Netpol’s quick start guide to protecting yourself and others from police surveillance at protests:
Queercare’s (pandemic specific) guide to staying safe at protests. Masks, water and snacks are all vital!
Give if you can, sharing helps even if you are not able to give.
Bristol Defendant Solidarity (to ensure everyone out on the streets in Bristol has access to
the legal and other support they need):
Free Siyanda (a black woman jailed for defending herself from a racist attack):
Sistah Space (fundraising for a new safe space for African heritage survivors of domestic abuse):
Queercare (community care, first aid and advocacy for people who experience transmisogyny, transphobia and homophobia):