Police seize anti-Brexit protester’s speakers hours after new Tory law takes force

Police seize anti-Brexit protester’s speakers hours after new Tory law takes force
Priti Patel gave police powers to crack down on the Parliament Square gathering

Police have seized amplifiers and speakers used by a long-running anti-Brexit protest outside the House of Parliament, under a new anti-protest law pushed through by Priti Patel.

Steve Bray and his campaign group have been a long-running fixture on the pavement on Parliament Square – blasting protest songs and confronting Tory MPs.

But on Tuesday police confiscated Mr Bray’s equipment using new powers in the government’s controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act – which took effect from midnight.

Around 15 officers this morning descended on the long-running demonstration, warning the protesters that if they resisted they would be arrested.

Home Secretary Priti Patel’s new law extended a “controlled area” around parliament to include Parliament Square and other side streets, where the protest has based itself.

Police wasted no time to crack down on the dissenters, confiscating the equipment just 10 hours after they gained the powers to do so.

Speaking after the incident, Mr Bray told The Independent: “They are just about to arrest me if I put the amp on again.”

The demonstrator said the clampdown was “absolutely illegal”.

“Human rights have been superseded by crass Tory laws. A lot of this law was aimed at people like me, XR (Extinction Rebellion). It’s shocking in a democracy when it comes to this but it needs to be tested,” he said.

And he added: “We’ll be going back on again. We have had two warnings already. They have said a third time they’re going to arrest me … (they have warned of) seizure of equipment and arrest… If I put the amplifier back on. So I’m gonna go with an anti fascist song called Bella Ciao.”

Asked if he was prepared to be arrested, he said: “Yes.” He added: “It’s not just sleepwalking into a fascist state. It’s here. It’s here now.”

He said his message for the home secretary was: “Up yours, Priti Patel. You’re a fascist. Go to hell Priti.”

It is understood officers warned Mr Bray that if he continued to use the equipment it would be seized, and that if he resisted, he would be arrested.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Court Act is a sprawling piece of legislation which human rights group Liberty has described as “a concerted attack on the right to protest”.

Jun Pang, policy and campaigns Oofficer at Liberty, said: “Protest is not a gift from the state, it is a fundamental right. Being able to choose what, how, and when we protest is a vital part of a healthy, functioning democracy, and nowhere is this more important than at sites of power like Parliament – especially at a time when the Government is bringing in laws that make it harder to challenge them,

“Protests are by nature ‘noisy’ and ‘disruptive’. It is very worrying the police have already started enforcing the broad powers within the Policing Act in such a heavy-handed and punitive way.

“As the Government tries to push through further attacks in the Public Order Bill and the Rights Removal Bill, we must all oppose these measures that will make it much harder for us all to stand up for what we believe in.”

As well as extending the buffer zone around parliament, the bill also restricts traveller encampments, gives police powers to disperse noisy protests, and cracks down on protesters taking direct action.

One clause also gives police powers to ban disruptive one-man protesters, a clause which raised suspicions that the Home Secretary was specifically targeting Mr Bray.