Sunak is calling for a ban on protests at the residences of Members of Parliament and for stricter measures to be taken against acts of mob rule.

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British Chancellor Rishi Sunak is aiming to stop protests from taking place outside of Members of Parliament’s residences, citing concerns over the UK’s growing problem of “mob rule.”

The prime minister is facing backlash from civil liberties organizations for his request to enforce stricter measures on demonstrations outside of parliament, political party headquarters, and town halls. These measures could potentially limit the use of these spaces or cause discomfort, harassment, or distress.

The decision was made following a meeting at Downing Street on Wednesday, where police chiefs gathered for a roundtable discussion on dealing with the harassment of politicians, candidates, and council members. Government officials have expressed disapproval of frequent large demonstrations, which have become more intense due to the ongoing Israel-Gaza conflict, as well as disruptive tactics employed by organizations like Just Stop Oil.

Ministers and top law enforcement officials from Downing Street have agreed to adopt a new “democratic policing protocol” which will designate protests outside of MP residences as “intimidating”. This protocol will establish a baseline for how police respond to demonstrations against MPs and offer guidance for handling protests and other “democratic” events.

At the meeting, Sunak instructed police chiefs to show that they would utilize their current powers, stating that it was crucial for upholding the public’s trust in the police.

In a drastic evaluation of the UK’s political system, he stated: “There is an increasing agreement that mob mentality is taking over instead of democratic practices. It is imperative that we all collectively take action to change this immediately.”

“We must also display to the general public a more comprehensive implementation of your current abilities and laws.”

He stated that the protocol for law enforcement, which involves increased patrols and recognizes that demonstrations at politicians’ homes should be considered intimidating, would safeguard democratic governance.

According to Tom Southerden, the law and human rights director at Amnesty International UK, the exaggerated language used by Sunak could potentially restrict the right to protest. Southerden warns that using terms like ‘mob rule’ greatly exaggerates the situation and may undermine the legitimacy of peaceful protest rights.

The right to freely express opinions and gather peacefully is crucial in a democratic society. In the UK, there has been a significant suppression of these rights in the past few years, with laws criminalizing peaceful protest and authorities having extensive control in preventing protests from occurring.

Earlier today, the individuals behind pro-Palestinian demonstrations in central London, as well as the civil liberties organization Liberty, criticized the government and members of parliament for trying to limit the rights of protest under false claims and by magnifying the tensions surrounding these protests.

According to Ben Jamal, the director of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the claim that new laws are necessary to limit the right to protest is based on a narrative that Islamist extremists are attempting to intimidate and harass Members of Parliament. He also stated that while his organization does not condone protests outside of MPs’ homes, this narrative is being used as justification for the proposed legislation.

James Cleverly shared on Tuesday that the government will be providing £31m to safeguard MPs. This includes hiring private bodyguards to offer 24/7 protection for those at the greatest risk and deploying security guards at constituency events hosted by MPs.

The forces will increase their presence in neighborhoods that are vulnerable to potential conflicts, according to the protocol.

The protocol said: “Protests at the home addresses of elected representatives, including MPs and councillors, should generally be considered to be intimidatory, and the police have adequate powers, including section 42 of the Criminal Justice and Police Act 2001, to direct protesters away.

“Protests at representatives’ parties’ offices, democratic venues (such as parliament or town halls) or at political events (such as constituency fundraisers or meetings) should not be allowed to (i) prevent or inhibit the use of the venue, attendance at the event or access to and from it or (ii) cause alarm, harassment or distress to attendees.”

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Last week at Westminster, there were tumultuous and hostile events following accusations that Commons speaker Lindsay Hoyle violated parliamentary protocol during a vote on a ceasefire in Gaza due to fears of “threats” made against MPs.

A government minister, Mike Freer, who wears a stab vest to public appearances due to safety concerns, is criticizing the new £31m security plan for MPs as ineffective. He argues that the plan does not address the root cause of why MPs are being targeted by threats. Furthermore, Freer plans to resign from his position at the next election.

Freer, the lawmaker for a significant Jewish population in the areas of Finchley and Golders Green in north London, expressed that the additional funds does not adequately tackle the fundamental issue. He stated on Times Radio, “I believe it’s not addressing the main issue. While increased security is appreciated, it only addresses the manifestation of the problem.”

The root cause is not being addressed. Why are individuals now feeling more confident in targeting members of parliament and holding demonstrations outside their homes, where their families may feel threatened? This not only affects the MP, but also their family.

Why must their life partners and offspring endure the fear within the confines of their own house?

Although security measures are important, they will only serve as a temporary solution unless the underlying issue is addressed. Simply placing a physical barrier around Members of Parliament will not fully protect our democratic process.

Earlier this month, the residence of Conservative member of parliament Tobias Ellwood was the target of demonstrations by pro-Palestine protesters. In previous months, environmental activists have also visited the homes of Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour party.

In the last eight years, two Members of Parliament have been killed: Jo Cox from the Labour party and David Amess from the Conservative party. As a result of these tragic events, measures have been implemented to improve the safety of lawmakers.


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