Protests in London, Wales over crime bill

London, April 4 (IANS) Protests were staged in London and in 24 other towns and cities across England and Wales against the UK government’s new crime bill, local media reported.

Police in London had warned people against joining the protests on Saturday, saying in an open letter that anyone who attends a gathering that breaches coronavirus restrictions may be committing an offence, reports Xinhua news agency.

In a statement, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Jane Connors, who is leading the Metropolitan Police’s strategic response to Covid-19, said: “While we welcome the limited relaxation of rules, we don’t want to become complacent. We are hugely grateful to the vast majority of Londoners who have played a vital part in controlling the spread of the virus up to now.

“After a long and difficult few months, let’s not undo all of that hard work now.

“Wherever possible, we should continue to be vigilant, minimise our contact as much as possible, wear a face covering where required and keep ourselves safe. That means avoiding any large gathering.”

The latest demonstrations came a month after several protests against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill turned violent in Bristol.

Officers in riot gear and dogs were sent in to clear the streets while 10 people were arrested during the “Kill the Bill” demonstration late March.

The bill would give the police in England and Wales more power to impose conditions on non-violent protests, including those deemed to be too noisy or a nuisance.

Those convicted under the bill could face a fine or jail.

Covid regulations have since been relaxed and protests are now lawful in England and Wales.

However, protest organisers must submit a risk assessment and take steps to limit the potential transmission of coronavirus, according to The Guardian newspaper.

Last month, police in Bristol were criticised for crackdowns on three protests against the bill, with officers in riot gear and dogs sent in to clear the streets three times in the city in the space of a week.

Protesters have attacked police in Bristol after thousands of people turned up to a demonstration that officers had “strongly advised” against attending.

Officers suffered broken bones and police vans were set alight as angry scenes unfolded in downtown Bristol, according to media reports.

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