The last lawful protest in Coventry
Photograph copyright of Alan Van Wijgerden (2022) On Saturday morning, your intrepid reporter Jazz Moreton traversed along a fence on the Butts Road in order to avoid a massive puddle from a blocked and flooded drain and make her way to Coventry’s ‘Kill the Bill’ protest with dry feet. Your intrepid photojournalist, Alan Van Wijgerden, walked the dry route to the city’s Godiva statue and avoided having to do climate change-induced athletics.
The demonstration was set to be Coventry’s last lawful protest for a long time, perhaps ever, because the Conservative party are bringing in the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts bill, which ultimately seems to give individual police officers the authority and autonomy to decide for themselves whether a protest is too noisy or too disruptive to be deemed lawful.
A major issue that I can see with this criminalisation of effective protest is that a quiet, calming, soothing protest is unlikely to garner the attention of protests such as Insulate Britain’s recent blockading of motorways or Extinction Rebellion’s blocking of Amazon depots on Black Friday.
The protest was one of the biggest seen in Coventry in recent times, and included protesters from groups across Coventry, Birmingham, and the surrounding areas, carrying a range of banners, placards, and even some dressed as the HS2 ‘White Elephant’. After listening to a variety of speeches from representatives of local social action movements, we- the protesters- marched around Coventry City Centre and past the extraordinarily quiet police station chanting ‘Kill, Kill, Kill the Bill’ (always a struggle for this stammerer, especially while wearing an FFP3 mask), ‘No justice, no peace’, and ‘What do we want? Freedom! When do we want it? Now!’, Jazz in the thick of it, Alan necessarily on the fringes to document what was happening. We’re used to seeing police officers chaperone protests and the lack of police support this time felt conspicuous.
Coventry is a tiny city, and after what felt like no time at all, warm from all the marching and chanting, we were back at the statue to sign up for mailing-lists and say our goodbyes until- what, given the Police, Crime, Sentencing, and Courts bill?