LONDON — Thousands of people protested Saturday in several cities across England and Wales against a sweeping crime and policing bill, with some in London clashing with the police in scenes that may further fuel a raging national debate over law enforcement tactics in Britain.
In London, protesters peacefully marched from Hyde Park in central London to Parliament Square, but the gathering gave way to scuffles with officers in the evening, and 26 demonstrators were detained, the police said. Ten officers also suffered light injuries, the Metropolitan Police said in a statement on Saturday night, adding that the number of arrests would likely increase.
Protesters also marched in Liverpool, Birmingham, Bristol and many other cities on Saturday, the latest events in what have become known as “Kill the Bill” demonstrations. Critics of the bill say it would hinder the right to protest and constitute an attack on democracy.
Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill are provisions allowing the police to bar unauthorized encampments and detain protesters if gatherings are deemed a “public nuisance.” The new legislation, pending in Parliament, could also impose noise limits and set start and finish times on demonstrations.
increasingly tense environment between the police and demonstrators across Europe. Over the past year, protesters have clashed with the police during Black Lives Matter protests, anti-lockdown rallies and, in countries like France, against similar security laws.
Human rights groups have warned against rising police disruption of such protests and have cited the arbitrary detention of protesters in countries like France, Croatia and Bulgaria as worrying trends.
“No E.U. country is immune to threats to democracy, and more concrete efforts are badly needed to revert worrying trends,” the Berlin-based Civil Liberties Union for Europe said in a report published last month.
In England and Wales, the new policing bill was thrust into the national spotlight last month after the police broke up a peaceful vigil for Sarah Everard, a 33-year-old woman who was murdered after disappearing in south London on March 3.