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UK: Letter from leading rights groups warn Government of 'chilling effect' on protests

46 organisations sign on letter calling on Prime Minister to immediately reverse the recent crackdown on the right to protest  

Expansion of the definition of extremism set to penalise wide range of people and groups  

Government’s demonisation of protesters is escalating division in the UK    

‘When the Prime Minister addresses the nation, we expect him to show leadership, not censorship’ - Sacha Deshmukh  

In response to the Prime Minister’s recent remarks on “extremism” and “mob rule” linked to protesters, Amnesty International UK, Article 19, Greenpeace UK, Liberty, the Runnymede Trust, Oxfam GB and 40, other organisations have sent a letter to the Prime Minister calling for “leadership, not censorship”.  

In the open letter the groups say that the recent introduction of a patchwork of repressive new legislation and policing powers has already placed draconian restrictions on the right to protest in the UK.  

Recently announced moves to place further limits on protests in specific locations are likely, say the groups, to have a further “chilling effect” on people’s right to protest in this country.   

The signatories of the letter say that by using terms such as “extremism” and “hate mobs”, ministers and other politicians have sought to demonise an overwhelmingly peaceful movement of individuals concerned and outraged by the catastrophic loss of life in Gaza.  

The open letter also challenges the Prime Minister over his stated intention to redouble support for the discredited Prevent scheme, in which Islamophobic stereotypes play a major role in referrals.  

Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s Chief Executive, said:  

“When the Prime Minister addresses the nation, we expect him to show leadership, not censorship.   

“From racist language used by ministers, plans to expand the definition of extremism to directly attacking our right to protest are clear violations of international human rights laws.  

“Peaceful protest and freedom of expression are fundamental to our democracy. We cannot stand idly by and allow the Government to raze our rights to the ground.”  

Three immediate demands  

Amnesty International UK and 45 other organisations are calling on the Prime Minister to:  

  • Reverse the recent crackdown on the right to protest and stop conflating protests with extremism  
  • Abandon the expansion of the definition of extremism and proposals to bar MPs from engaging with certain groups  
  • Refrain from amplifying divisive language which could inflame tensions within and between communities 

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