The Stop Brexit Man Could Be Prosecuted For Protesting – Here's Why That Matters

·6 min read
Anti-Brexit activist Steve Bray holds a placard which reads 'Cost of Tory crisis' while shouting slogans during the demonstration. (Photo: SOPA Images via Getty Images)
Anti-Brexit activist Steve Bray holds a placard which reads 'Cost of Tory crisis' while shouting slogans during the demonstration. (Photo: SOPA Images via Getty Images)

Anti-Brexit activist Steve Bray holds a placard which reads 'Cost of Tory crisis' while shouting slogans during the demonstration. (Photo: SOPA Images via Getty Images)

Steve Bray, known as the “Stop Brexit” man, had his amplifiers seized by police on Tuesday following new laws which crack down on “noisy protests”.

The anti-Brexit demonstrator has become famous in recent years for campaigning all across Westminster against leaving the EU.

But this week, the former coin dealer and previous Lib Dem parliamentary candidate had his sound system taken by police officers, after the new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act came into law.

The divisive legislation makes it an offence to intentionally or recklessly cause a public nuisance – a law originally intended to stop disruption from climate crisis activists.

The Ministry of Justice said the law also allows police to tackle non-violent, but disruptive, protests which have an impact on the public or parliamentary access.

Another law, the Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act, meant that the police could take Bray’s items which were used for prohibited activities in Parliament Square.

Bray’s offence has been reported which means he may be considered for prosecution.

Still, he returned to Parliament on Wednesday, promising to stage a protest which will be “twice as loud”.

Playing songs such as the 1975 Bye Bye Baby – overlaid with “Bye Bye Boris” as a lyric – he called on officers to “arrest me” while trying to convey his message to Parliament.

Why is this significant?

Although Bray’s demonstration is very small, Tuesday’s police intervention shows just how the right to protest has been curtailed.

According to the new law, “serious disruption to the life of the community” – including delay to the delivery of a time-sensitive product or prolonged disruption of access to any essential goods or services – count as protests which can be addressed by police.

As the human rights organisation Liberty explained: “The new wording give the police very broad powers to decide what amounts to ‘serious disruption’.

“As a result, people are now at greater risk of being caught by the new definition and being subject to police conditions, which limits the freedom to protest.”

There is now a “noise trigger” too, where police can put conditions on protest marches if they think sound from the demonstrations will disrupt nearby organisations, or if they think it will have an impact on people in the area.

Liberty explained: “This means protests that have more support are more likely to have restrictions placed on them.”

The new law also permits ministers to make changes to how disruption in defined without going through the parliament, and forbids protesters to obstruct entrance or exit to and from Palace of Westminster.

These rules all apply to both marches and static demonstrations.

At the same time, protesters are not granted any extra rights.

Penalties for breaching these rules have been extended too. Previously, protest organisers would receive up to three months in prison and/or a fine of up to £2,500.

Now, they could receive up to 51 weeks in prison, and/or a similar fine, lowering the bar for what is seen as an offence.

Bray said the new law is ‘fascist’

Speaking after the incident, Bray said: “Under this new law, this fascist law that’s been rushed through Parliament, taking away our rights to protest, they want protesters to just stand there with their hands folded.

“But protest is all about sound and vision, without that you’re not a protest, but they don’t want dissent, and they don’t like me.”

Human rights group Amnesty International said this was a “dark day for liberty in our country”, adding: “The deeply authoritarian new policing laws are a charter for the suppression of legitimate protest.”

On Twitter, Liberty pointed out that “protesting at sites like parliament is part of functioning democracy...especially when Gov is bringing in further laws that make it harder to challenge them”.

How have people reacted?

Tory backbencher, Andrea Leadsom, tweeted out her praise for the action by the police, declaring Bray’s protest to be “violent.

She said Bray “spent six years screaming abuse through a loudhailer at me and many others as often as he saw us for the ‘crime’ of trying to fulfil the democratic decision of the UK to leave the EU”.

However, not many people agreed.

This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.

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