Bedfordshire PCC defends the government’s new anti-protest laws

Former Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye (Conservative). Image: Office of the PCC
Former Bedfordshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Festus Akinbusoye (Conservative). Image: Office of the PCC

Bedfordshire’s police and crime commissioner supports the right to protest, but it’s “unacceptable” to disrupt people’s lives while doing so, he said.

A few days before the Coronation, the Home Office introduced new anti-protest laws for police officers to arrest protesters as a “preventative measure” before they have caused any disruption.

It was reported that 64 people were arrested over the Coronation weekend. This included 52 who were held over police concerns that the event “could be disrupted”.

When asked about these new laws, Bedfordshire’s police and crime commissioner (PCC), Festus Akinbusoye, said: “My position has always been that protests are an important part of our society.

“I think the police are in a very difficult spot, as we found in London over the [Coronation] weekend.

“I support protests, I don’t have any issue with that, but I do not support this kind of mass disruption of people who want to get about their normal lives because I have a right to feed my family and to earn a living and I don’t want that to be disrupted unnecessarily.”

He added: “If you want to [protest] go to Parliament put a placard up and shout and make noise, but to go and block an entire motorway is unacceptable.

“If this happened in Bedfordshire I would be asking the chief constable to explain to me what his plans are to deal with that.

“I want people in Bedfordshire to go about their business without being disrupted by anyone, not even protesters.”

The PCC added that the disruptive protests are also turning people away from the protestors’ causes.

“If you want to protest on the side of the road, put your placards up, and shout if you want to – it is your right,” he said.

“But please don’t disturb people who want to go about their business, to take the kids to school, go to hospital, go shopping, see a loved one who might be dying.

“I would not support that, but I will support your right to protest if you want to,” he said.

by John Guinn
Local Democracy Reporter