Written by by Chris Bennion, CNN Written by By Ben McKenzie, CNN Posted by iReport, CNN
New powers to stop and search protesters and make “locking on” to a bus, train or ferry illegal have been included in the Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Bill, with some critics arguing these laws could be too broad and cause further profiling of black and other minority ethnic communities.
Prime Minister Theresa May said in July the bill had been designed to ease tensions in inner-city areas
“There is a particular need to keep the streets of our capital safe while we are making progress in transforming the lives of some of the most disadvantaged young people across London,” she said.
It was reported in August that many police stop and search rates in London went down over the first six months of the year — suggesting the new powers could not be behind any change.
“Locking on” — and other new powers
In Thursday’s statement to Parliament, Home Secretary Amber Rudd, also moved to fast-track powers currently proposed as part of the bill.
These include permission for specially trained police marksmen to open fire, crackdowns on “cyber-bullying”, and powers to identify and give money to bullies on social media and mobile phone apps.
Rudd said the aim of these measures was to further reduce violence in urban areas.
Last month, the third amendment to the bill drew the ire of London Mayor Sadiq Khan. While praising the measures to give “educators, social workers and faith leaders” greater powers to intervene with perpetrators of street violence, he was less impressed by the inclusion of new “locking on” laws.
Speaking in London, Khan said locking on means: “If you’re caught in the act you could face prosecution, including for hurting or injuring another person.
“This is not based on any specific threat, but is more about enforcing tough sentences for those who may have gone too far in pushing back or resisting attempts to stop them.”
The policing powers will apply to bus stops, railway stations, bus stops in tram or train stations, bridges, road junctions, stationary railway or trams and on any public premises, from a hotel or café to a shop.
“Locking on” is not allowed to take place in a pub or club with licensed premises. The legislation will also cover “any person or place” where an ambulance is expected or required to arrive within four hours.
Where “locking on” is engaged, such as by a lone person, the offence is for acting in a way that is likely to cause injury.
When observing protestors
Amnesty International has asked the government to consult further with black and ethnic minority communities “to hear their views on whether specific proposals may be disproportionate or discriminatory.”
Affecting London’s Poplar, which has a large multicultural community, the organization described the new powers as “deeply concerning,” saying: “Racial profiling of protestors has for decades been the number one reason many African-Caribbean and black and minority ethnic people are stopped and searched by the police.”
According to a survey by police watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission, 51% of African-Caribbean men said they had been stopped or searched in the last year.