Braverman’s consultation on anti-protest laws was ‘only open to police’

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Original article by Anita Mureithi republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Liberty’s lawyers say police feedback was ‘directly incorporated into the final text’ of Braverman’s anti-protest laws  | Richard Baker / In Pictures via Getty Images

High Court told government only sought feedback from people it knew would agree with its controversial changes

Only police were consulted on anti-protest laws before they were forced through by the UK government, according to human rights lawyers suing the home secretary.

Campaign group Liberty has been in court this week challenging James Cleverly over amendments to the Public Order Act that were pushed through by his predecessor, Suella Braverman, last year.

Liberty was given permission to take legal action against Braverman in October after she used secondary legislation – subject to less parliamentary scrutiny – to strengthen police powers to shut down protests that cause “more than minor disruption to the life of the community”.

The group says Braverman’s actions amounted to a “serious overreach” and that she acted unlawfully because the changes to the law had already been rejected in the House of Lords.

And Liberty has labelled a consultation on the proposed laws in 2022 as “one-sided” and “unfair” – because the Home Office only consulted police. The government gave the Met, Staffordshire Police, Essex Police, the National Police Chiefs’ Council, and the College of Policing opportunities to give their views on the legislation, but did not seek input from anyone who might be impacted by the laws.

Liberty argued: “The [home secretary] voluntarily embarked upon a process of consultation about the contents and drafting of the regulations but then only consulted a narrow group of stakeholders in support of the amendments rather than an even-handed group representative of all those whose interests may be adversely impacted.”

Its lawyers also say police feedback was “directly incorporated into the final text” of the amendments to the Public Order Act, including on the definition of “serious disruption to the life of the community”.

The new powers have been criticised by Liberty and other human rights groups due to the vagueness of the new language, which campaigners say allows police to shut down almost any protests. The changes forced through by Braverman mean officers can interfere with and arrest anyone taking part in protests that they believe will cause “more than minor disruption to the life of the community”.

Police feedback on “cumulative disruption” was also included in the final amendments to the act. Under this law, officers must take into account all “relevant cumulative disruption”, regardless of whether or not your protest is related to any other protest or disruption in the same area. Before this amendment, there was no explicit requirement for police to consider this.

While the government held multiple meetings with police representatives in December 2022 to seek input and “refine policy”, Liberty argues that the fact that no rights groups or members of the public were consulted is rooted in “procedural unfairness” and that the changes must be reversed.

Katy Watts, Liberty’s lawyer leading the case said: “The government has shown it’s determined to put itself above the law, avoid scrutiny and become untouchable – so it’s no surprise it only consulted people it knew would agree with its new law.

“Our democracy exists to make sure a government can’t just do whatever it wants, and an important part of that is consulting a wide range of voices on new laws – especially those likely to raise reasonable concerns. This improves government decision making and helps to make our laws better. The government’s failure to do this is just one of the ways it acted unlawfully when it forced these powers though.”

The laws were initially brought in to clamp down on protests by climate activist groups like Just Stop Oil, Insulate Britain, and Extinction Rebellion, but other protesters are now also being targeted.

The government has accused pro-Palestine protesters of “hijacking legitimate protests”, “shouting down and coercing elected representatives”, and has also called them “un-British” and “undemocratic”.

In a new ‘defending democracy policing protocol’ released this week, the government pledged £31m of additional funding to protect MPs after safety fears were raised.

The Home Office said it wants to “protect the democratic process from intimidation” but according to its own policy paper, only met with police representatives from the National Police Chiefs Council, the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, and the College of Policing.

The Home Office did not respond to a request for comment.

The two-day hearing ended yesterday and Liberty’s lawyers expect a decision could take up to three months.

Original article by Anita Mureithi republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International

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Protest isn’t harassment, says group suing UK government over law change

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Continue ReadingBraverman’s consultation on anti-protest laws was ‘only open to police’

UN Special Rapporteur releases paper condemning state repression of environmental defenders

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Just Stop Oil protesting in London 6 December 2022.
Just Stop Oil protesting in London 6 December 2022.

The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Environmental Defenders released a detailed ‘Position Paper’ yesterday which called growing repression of environmental protest and activism a  “major threat to democracy and human rights”. He remarked:

“The repression that environmental activists who use peaceful civil disobedience are currently facing in Europe is a major threat to democracy and human rights. The environmental emergency that we are collectively facing, and that scientists have been documenting for decades, cannot be addressed if those raising the alarm and demanding action are criminalized for it. The only legitimate response to peaceful environmental activism and civil disobedience at this point is that the authorities, the media, and the public realize how essential it is for us all to listen to what environmental defenders have to say.”

The report names numerous actions and comments made by the UK Government over recent years as cause for concern for the state of democracy and civil rights. It lists an overview of “Harsh and disproportionate sentences and removal of defenses” that have been occurring in the judicial system.

Image of a Just Stop Oil participant getting arrested at Kingsbury oil terminal.
A Just Stop Oil participant getting arrested at Kingsbury oil terminal. A JSO / Vladamir Morozov image.

Recent legislations from the UK Government are described as “being used to stifle environmental protest”, such as the 2022 Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act and 2023 Public Order Act – the factsheet of which mentions “Extinction Rebellion, Insulate Britain and Just Stop Oil” as leading factors.

A Just Stop Oil spokesperson said today:

“The main concern of policymakers should be on addressing this crisis and assisting the frontline victims of climate collapse – that’s the farmers in Wales whose crops are failing, or families in Ireland having to evacuate from their homes to escape flooding, or people in Bangladesh suffering under the threat of lethal wet-bulb temperatures.”

Image of an Insulate Britain roadblock September 2021
Image of an Insulate Britain roadblock September 2021

“However, the fact is that Western Governments are resorting to increasing authoritarianism to try to stop citizens from standing up to their leaders’ corrupt efforts to line their own pockets with oil money. It’s important to highlight this fact, and to note that this repression is failing as the people’s demand for real decarbonisation becomes too loud to ignore”.

As the world passes tipping points that threaten the breakdown of ordered civilization, world leaders, captured by the interests of oil lobbyists and big business, are failing to protect our communities. British citizens are sick of being led by liars and crooks. Until we stop Tory oil, supporters of Just Stop Oil will continue taking proportionate action to demand necessary change. Sign up for action at juststopoil.org.

'The Uk Government's Hypocritical Stance on Protest' by Mair Bain. Part of Just Stop Oil's You May Find Yourself...
02 JUNE 2023 - 23 JUNE 2023 auction.
‘The Uk Government’s Hypocritical Stance on Protest’ by Mair Bain. Part of Just Stop Oil’s You May Find Yourself… 02 JUNE 2023 – 23 JUNE 2023 auction.
Continue ReadingUN Special Rapporteur releases paper condemning state repression of environmental defenders

Protest isn’t harassment, says group suing UK government over law change

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 Original article by Anita Mureithi republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Protesters gather in Parliament Square, London, to call for a ceasefire in Gaza, 21 February 2024
 | Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Human rights group Liberty says spotlight on MPs’ safety has seen Tories ‘vilify’ Palestine marchers

Ahuman rights campaign group suing the government for forcing through anti-protest laws says people who go on Palestine marches are being “vilified” to “stoke division”.

Liberty is today challenging the home secretary, James Cleverly, in the High Court over a decision by his predecessor Suella Braverman to introduce new legislation targeting protesters that had already been rejected by Parliament.

The case comes in a week where protest rights are in the spotlight. Pro-Palestine marches are being labelled a threat to MPs and the Home Affairs Select Committee has called on the government to force organisers to give more notice.

Speaking to openDemocracy ahead of the hearing, Liberty director Akiko Hart said: “We’re seeing both our fundamental rights of protest being undermined, but also specific protests like the pro-Palestinian marches being vilified.”

Hart took aim at the “incredibly irresponsible rhetoric from senior politicians where protest is equated to intimidation and harassment”.

MPs’ safety fears were raised last week following chaos in the House of Commons over a symbolic vote on a ceasefire in Gaza. Though some MPs have reported an increase in abuse and threats, campaigners warn that peaceful protests are now being associated with terrorism in order to undermine them.

“There were legitimate concerns around MPs’ safety – obviously, two MPs have been murdered in the last ten years,” she said. “We need to take that very, very seriously. I would also say that it’s MPs who are racialised who are most at risk from harassment, and that’s what the evidence shows us.

“But to conflate harassment with protest, which is what’s happening this week, is really dangerous and irresponsible. There are laws in place to deal with harassment and abuse. That isn’t the same as legitimate protest.”

In its recommendations, the Home Affairs Select Committee said more notice was needed ahead of Palestine marches because the size and frequency of the protests is a burden on police resources. But according to the coalition organising the national Palestine marches, the measures would further limit the right to peaceful protest. Hart also said the current notice period of six days is enough for police to prepare for marches.

“Extending that will just restrict people’s ability to be able to make their voices heard. With this, as with any other issue, the point about protest is that it is not about whether or not you agree – it’s about our right to protest,” she explained.

Liberty was given the green light to sue Braverman in October after she used secondary legislation – which doesn’t get the same level of parliamentary scrutiny – to allow police to restrict or shut down any protest that could cause “more than minor disruption to the life of the community”.

“It shouldn’t be the case that you would have to take the home secretary to court with all the time and effort and energy and expertise that that involves,” said Hart. “The reason we are doing so is because of the then home secretary’s egregious act of circumventing Parliament.”

The government previously tried to insert the new powers into the Public Order Act 2023 in January last year, but was blocked by the Lords.

The point about protest is that it is not about whether or not you agree – it’s about our right to protest

Liberty believes a win “would be a powerful check against any future minister or government that intends to do the same thing”.

Hart told openDemocracy that there have already been clear examples of the impact of anti-protest laws that have come through the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts (‘Policing’) Act and the Public Order Act, which both give police more powers to restrict protests.

“There were anti-monarchy protesters who were arrested on the basis that the luggage straps that they were carrying were seen to be tools for locking-on, which was a new offence created under the Public Order Act, but they were carrying them to secure their placards.

“We’re also seeing it in sentencing. Last summer, the Court of Appeal upheld the sentences of the two protesters who scaled the Dartford crossing. And those sentences were two years and seven months, and three years – the harshest sentences ever handed down in modern times around protests around civil disobedience,” she said.

The trial against the home secretary is expected to run for two days at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Hart told openDemocracy that while she and Liberty’s team of lawyers are feeling optimistic, “there’s a level of underlying exhaustion at how this government is conducting itself and responding to the protests that are happening”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The right to peaceful protest is fundamental; the right to disrupt the hard-working public is not.

“We have taken action to give police the powers they need to tackle criminal tactics used by protesters such as locking on and slow marching, as well as interfering with key national infrastructure.

“We work closely with the police to make sure they have the tools they need to tackle disorder and minimise disruption.”

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 Original article by Anita Mureithi republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Continue ReadingProtest isn’t harassment, says group suing UK government over law change

Home Office ‘did not discuss’ Islamophobia risk in wake of Hamas attacks

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Original article by Ramzy Alwakeel Ruby Lott-Lavigna republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Former home secretary Suella Braverman at a ‘Stand With Israel’ rally in London’s Trafalgar Square in January 2024. Braverman’s Home Office sent a letter to police chiefs warning of a potential rise in antisemitic hate crimes in the wake of Hamas’s 7 October attacks on Israel but did not even consider sending a similar letter about rising Islamophobia, new documents reveal. Both communities experienced significant rises in hate crime as the conflict in the Middle East escalated
 | Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Government spoke about threat of antisemitism but did not consider making equivalent warning about anti-Muslim hate

The Home Office appears to have given no consideration to the threat of Islamophobic hate crime in the wake of Hamas’s attacks on Israel, despite warning chief constables about the “obvious risk” of rising antisemitism, openDemocracy can reveal.

It comes as the government is embroiled in a row about its perceived unequal treatment of antisemitism and Islamophobia. Incidents of both have soared since 7 October.

Oxford councillor Shaista Aziz said Muslim women were particularly at risk from rising hate crime, and told openDemocracy that the Home Office’s lack of action was “outrageous, yes, horrific, yes, but not surprising”.

On 10 October, then home secretary Suella Braverman wrote to police chiefs in England and Wales urging them to watch for rising antisemitism, particularly on pro-Palestinian marches.

The letter asked police to consider whether holding a Palestinian flag on a march or singing “from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” could be considered a terrorist offence.

But requests made by openDemocracy under the Freedom of Information Act found that the Home Office held no evidence of any meetings, phone calls, emails or briefing papers from the same period of time regarding the possibility of publishing a similar letter about hate towards Muslim and pro-Palestinian groups.

Aziz said: “It sends a very clear message to British Muslims that ‘you’re not a priority for us,’ as opposed to: ‘You are facing a sustained rise in violence and extremism, and it’s our job as a government to put things in place to ensure that people are protected.’”

The independent councillor, who quit Labour in October in protest at Keir Starmer’s apparent suggestion that Israel’s attacks on Gaza were justified, also called out Labour’s own record on Islamophobia. She pointed to the fact no one had faced consequences for briefing a deeply offensive line to the press that Muslim councillors quitting the party meant Labour was “shaking off the fleas”.

Labour MP Clive Lewis told openDemocracy the “hierarchy of racism” in the government and society at large benefited only the far right. “This doesn’t help the Muslim community and it sure as hell doesn’t help the Jewish community,” he said. “This divide and rule policy is not just wrong – it’s dangerous.”

Lee Anderson, the Tories’ former deputy chair, was suspended from the Conservative Party this weekend after claiming in an appearance on GB News that “Islamists” had “got control” of the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan.

Conservative ministers have been reluctant to criticise Anderson, who has not apologised. Deputy prime minister Oliver Dowden yesterday refused to say whether his claims were Islamophobic in interviews with both the BBC and ITV, and transport secretary Mark Harper this morning again declined to call them racist – instead telling both the BBC and Sky News that they were simply “wrong”.

Anderson’s comments had echoed a column Braverman wrote in The Telegraph last week, in which she claimed that “Islamists” were “in charge” of Britain.

Braverman was forced out of office in November after she accused the police of left-leaning bias, helping incite a far-right mob to storm the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day. She is yet to face repercussions from the Conservative Party for the latest column.

Alba Kapoor, head of policy at the anti-racist Runnymede Trust charity, said: “This latest revelation shows what we have sadly already suspected: that this government has a flagrant disregard for its duty to protect Muslim communities.

“As instances of Islamophobia continue to skyrocket following last October, Muslim communities face persistent racist attacks. But instead of taking any action to challenge that, senior Conservative politicians and former cabinet members are busy stoking Islamophobic sentiment, and building divisive narratives.

“That the prime minister refuses to even call these instances out as racism is a clear sign of a government that is disgracefully failing Muslims across the country. This woeful situation will continue to cause profound harm unless meaningful action is taken to protect Muslim people at this time.”

The government stumped up funding to tackle both Islamophobia and antisemitism last year. It has committed £29.4m a year to providing security for mosques and Muslim schools, and £18m a year for equivalent safety measures for synagogues and Jewish schools, until 2025.

But it has had no independent adviser on Islamophobia for 20 months. Imam Qari Asim was dismissed from the role in June 2022, after being accused of backing a ban on a film that was said to exacerbate sectarian tensions between Muslims. Asim said the government’s claim that he acted to “limit free speech” was “inaccurate”.

A government spokesperson said: “There is no place for hate in our society and we condemn the recent rise in reported anti-Muslim and antisemitic hatred.

“We expect the police to fully investigate all hate crimes and work with the Crown Prosecution Service to make sure the cowards who commit these abhorrent offences feel the full force of the law.

“Following recent events, we have also made further funding available to Muslim and Jewish communities, to provide additional security at places of worship and faith schools.”

Original article by Ramzy Alwakeel Ruby Lott-Lavigna republished from OpenDemocracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence

Image quoting Suella 'Sue-Ellen' Braverman reads ‘Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati’.
Image quoting Suella ‘Sue-Ellen’ Braverman reads ‘Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati’.
Continue ReadingHome Office ‘did not discuss’ Islamophobia risk in wake of Hamas attacks

Lee Anderson’s Islamophobia 101: how the Conservatives dodge responsibility for the prejudice that is rife in their ranks

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Chris Allen, University of Leicester

Despite the furore, the recent attack on London mayor Sadiq Khan by the now-suspended Conservative MP Lee Anderson should come as no surprise. In much the same way, neither should we be surprised at prime minister Rishi Sunak’s failure to call out what Anderson said as being anything other than blatant Islamophobia. When it comes to the Conservative party, we have been here before. For them, this is Islamophobia 101.

The recent controversy began when Anderson – who was until very recently the party’s deputy chairman – told GB News that Sadiq Khan had “given our capital city away to his mates”. As he went on, “I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country, but what I do believe is they’ve got control of Khan, and they’ve got control of London”.

Since then, Anderson has doubled down, adding: “when you think you are right, you should never apologise because to do so would be a sign of weakness”.

Anderson has lost the whip, but beyond that the message coming out of the Conservative party has been tempered. Sunak has failed to even acknowledge Anderson’s comments as Islamophobic, let alone condemn them as such, saying instead: “I think the most important thing is that the words were wrong, they were ill-judged, they were unacceptable.”

The Conservatives’ problem with Islamophobia

In recent years, the Conservative party has struggled to disentangle itself from various allegations that it is Islamophobic. In 2018, the Muslim Council of Britain presented the party with a dossier detailing near-weekly incidents involving various party members.

For those such as the former party chair Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, the dossier was merely the tip of the iceberg. Noting how experiences of hate and discrimination are notoriously under-reported she claimed at the time that Islamophobia is “widespread [in the party]…from the grassroots, all the way up to the top”.

In the same year, former prime minister Boris Johnson referred to Muslim women who choose to wear the full-face veil as “letterboxes” and “bank robbers” in an article for the Telegraph. He dismissed the comments as little more than a gaffe but the allegations prompted the then home secretary Sajid Javid to ask his rivals during a BBC Conservative leadership debate to commit to an external investigation into Islamophobia, whoever the next leader might be. All, including Johnson, agreed.

Once Johnson had secured the party leadership however, the investigation was shifted away from Islamophobia onto discrimination more widely. Doing so enabled the party to distance itself from the very reason why such an investigation was deemed necessary in the first place: claims of widespread Islamophobia.

Quibbling over definitions

Another way the Conservatives – and indeed others – have chosen to deny allegations of being Islamophobic is to claim that they do not have a definition for Islamophobia and therefore cannot assess whether comments such as Anderson’s are Islamophobic. Such a premise is of course a farcical, straw man argument.

Like all other discriminatory phenomena – from racism to homophobia – plenty of definitions have been put forward that could be adopted by the Conservatives. They could simply look to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims, which in 2018 made history by putting forward the first working definition of Islamophobia in the UK. In its report Islamophobia Defined, it posited that “Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness”.

Despite this definition being adopted by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru and various local governments across the country, the Conservative party announced it was not intending to adopt the definition on the basis that further consideration was necessary.

Continuing to deny the existence of an appropriate definition is, at this point, a convenient way to avoid being accused of being Islamophobic. As I put it in my 2020 book Reconfiguring Islamophobia, all the debate around definitions achieves is to afford detractors permission to do nothing about the problem itself.

Attacks on Sadiq Khan

Opposition parties were immediately critical of Anderson’s comments. But while the Labour party Chair Anneliese Dodds described them as “unambiguously racist and Islamophobic” and the Liberal Democrat London mayoral candidate Rob Blackie castigated the MP for “spreading dangerous conspiracy theories”, it is interesting that no one has highlighted how attacking Khan specifically is becoming an alarmingly common political tactic.

This was nowhere more evident than during Zac Goldsmith’s 2016 London mayoral campaign. Branded “disgusting” at the time, Goldsmith published a piece in the Mail on Sunday with the headline: “Are we really going to hand the world’s greatest city to a Labour Party that thinks terrorists are its friends?”. Goldsmith went on to paint rival Khan as a security risk, claiming he had past links with extremists and that he supported Islamic State. Sound familiar?

So too does the Conservative party have a history of laying claim to Islamist extremists infiltrating other parts of British society. Michael Gove, during his time as education secretary, launched an investigation into claims “Muslim hardliners” were taking over state schools in Birmingham, despite the letter that made the allegations being immediately dismissed as a hoax by the police. In 2015, Theresa May, while home secretary, took it even further, launching a campaign against “entryist” infiltration across vast swathes of the public and third sectors by Islamist extremists.

While there should be no hierarchy when it comes to hate or discrimination, the reality is that when it comes to Islamophobia, the scrutiny directed at other forms of prejudice is undeniably absent. What can be said and alleged about Muslims in political (and public) spaces cannot be said about other religious groups and communities.

It should be shocking that the prime minister cannot even acknowledge Anderson’s comments as Islamophobic – but it isn’t. It’s just another example of the sheer disregard and utter contempt that is shown by political leaders towards this problem.


Far-right parties and politicians are mounting election campaigns all over the world in 2024. Join us in London at 6pm on March 6 for a salon style discussion with experts on how seriously we should take the threat, what these parties mean for our democracies – and what action we can take. Register for your place at this free public session here. There will be food, drinks and, best of all, the opportunity to connect with interesting people.The Conversation


Chris Allen, Associate Professor, School of Criminology, University of Leicester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingLee Anderson’s Islamophobia 101: how the Conservatives dodge responsibility for the prejudice that is rife in their ranks

Morning Star: Cynical attacks on the peace movement are fuelling brazen racism

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https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/cynical-attacks-peace-movement-are-fuelling-brazen-racism

People take part in a Palestine Solidarity Campaign rally outside the Houses of Parliament, London, as MPs debate calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, February 21, 2024

Braverman is continuing her bid to ban peace marches even though the demand for a Gaza ceasefire commands majority support in Britain and indeed right across the world, where Britain and the US stood shamefully isolated this month as the only countries not to support a ceasefire resolution at the UN security council.

Lee Anderson, in the guise of moderating Braverman’s claim (“I don’t actually believe that the Islamists have got control of our country”) actually took it a step further (“they’ve got control of [Sadiq] Khan… He’s actually given our capital city away to his mates.”)

Leftwingers will be incredulous at the implication that peace demonstrators are Khan’s “mates” — the London mayor is no socialist and enthusiastically joined in the character assassination of Jeremy Corbyn when he led Labour.

But Anderson’s subtext is clear: Palestinians are Muslims (not all are, of course, but nuance is not Anderson’s strong point), people marching for justice for Palestinians must therefore be controlled by Muslims, the big marches in London haven’t been banned, and this must be because its mayor is a Muslim.

This is incendiary stuff. So rattled are British authorities that they have repeatedly misrepresented Palestine solidarity demos: the attempt to ban the huge Armistice Day demo rested on a baseless assertion it posed a threat to the Cenotaph (which the fascist thugs riled up by Braverman’s propaganda actually did).

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/cynical-attacks-peace-movement-are-fuelling-brazen-racism

Continue ReadingMorning Star: Cynical attacks on the peace movement are fuelling brazen racism

Tories’ ‘toxic racism and Islamophobia’ risks fuelling more hate on the streets

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https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/tories-toxic-racism-and-islamophobia-risks-fuelling-more-hate-on-the-streets

Former British Prime Minister Liz Truss speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference, 2024 CPAC, at the National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland, February 22, 2024

CAMPAIGNERS have called on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to withdraw the whip from Suella Braverman and Liz Truss, warning that their propagation of “toxic racism and Islamophobia” could fuel far-right hatred on the streets.

The demands came after the Tory whip was removed from Lee Anderson after he made Islamophobic comments to GB News about London Mayor Sadiq Khan.

Mr Sunak removed the whip, but only after Mr Anderson failed to apologise for his comments.

Mr Anderson’s comments were soon followed by an article in the Daily Telegraph by former home secretary Suella Braverman.

She wrote: “The Islamists, the extremists and the anti-semites are in charge.”

Across the Atlantic, former Prime Minister Liz Truss attempted to drum up new support by attending the far-right Conservative Political Action Conference.

While a guest on War Room, the podcast of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, she said that “a radical Islamic party” could win the Rochdale by-election.

https://morningstaronline.co.uk/article/tories-toxic-racism-and-islamophobia-risks-fuelling-more-hate-on-the-streets

Continue ReadingTories’ ‘toxic racism and Islamophobia’ risks fuelling more hate on the streets

When far-right ideas become mainstream, it’s people of colour who suffer

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Original article by Shabna Begum republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

The Tories and Labour competing over hardline immigration policies only helps to mainstream far-right ideas

Rishi Sunak conducts a press conference in December 2023  | James Manning (WPA Pool)/Getty Images

Standing at a lectern with the familiar slogan, “STOP THE BOATS”, Rishi Sunak evoked the “will of the people” as the so-called Rwanda Bill made its fractious passage through the Commons last week.

The prime minister’s summoning of “the people” to push through an inhumane and unpopular policy smacks of the misuse of populism that we have come to associate with this government. The insistence that stopping people seeking asylum is “an urgent national issue” deliberately ignores that the priority issues for the British public remain the cost of living and the NHS.

We have seen both main political parties eagerly trading punches for the prize of who can appear most punitive on blocking people seeking asylum. Not only does this stale consensus manufacture a sense of crisis that is a distortion of public opinion, but it also pretends it has nothing to do with racism. And yet whether it’s warning about a “hurricane” or “invasion” of migrants and the failures of multiculturalism, or condemning Britain’s “immigration dependency”, the messaging relies on innuendo and euphemism that stoke racial tensions.

The Runnymede Trust, where I am the interim co-CEO, has today published a report warning of the dangers of this rotten politics that helps mainstream far-right, racist political ideas. Political debate on immigration, based on racialised ideas of who is welcome and who belongs, has become the norm. Whether directly or indirectly, historic and contemporary migration policies are predicated on the exclusion of people of colour. As exemplified by the Windrush scandal, this cheap politics has a high cost – and it is people of colour, regardless of their citizenship status, who bear the ugly consequences.

These toxic anti-migrant policies are coupled with a sustained assault on our democratic infrastructure. In 2022, the government passed the Elections Act, which made it a requirement that voters present ID at polling stations. There was strong opposition about the impact on people of colour. The first UK elections to use them – the May 2023 local elections – confirmed these fears. The Electoral Commission reported about 14,000 people were turned away, and that people of colour and disabled people were most likely to be impacted. The commission predicts 800,000 people could be blocked from voting at the next general election – an incredible price to pay when there were just six cases of voter fraud in 2019.

And then of course there’s attacks on the right to protest. Last year’s Public Order Act introduced new and expanded stop and search powers in relation to protest-related ‘offences’. The United Nations Human Rights Commissioner was unequivocal that these powers were “disproportionate criminal sanctions on people organising or taking part in peaceful protests”. The Runnymede Trust, alongside many others, opposed the law, highlighting increased police powers would, as with all stop and search powers, be disproportionately used against people of colour, particularly Black men.

It’s not just legislation, but also through rhetoric that politicians have persistently attacked the right to protest. Indeed, former home secretary Suella Braverman labelled pro-Palestine marches “hate marches” and compared them with wicked vexation to Black Lives Matter protests – both causes which have high levels of support among communities of colour.

And dare I even mention the ‘culture war’ and the injuries it has inflicted on the strength of civil society? In recent years we have seen the vilification of organisations across the arts, heritage, charity sector and our higher education spaces. The targets have often been those that have dared to embark on progressive racial justice work, who have been demonised with the absurd inversion of the term ‘woke’.

Whether it is through stacking boards with hand-picked ideologues, threatening funding sources, or personalised attacks on individuals, the government has led and encouraged unprecedented attacks on civil society institutions and created a chilling culture of fear, intimidation and self-censorship.

The fact it is the likes of Braverman and her replacement James Cleverly – ministers of colour – who have designed and executed these policies, shows diversity at the top does not protect against racist impact, nor does it mean people in those positions won’t have divergent or indeed opposing political interests to those with whom they may share some points of affinity.

The politics of representation may prioritise superficial visibility, but we mustn’t forget people in positions of power have always designed and inflicted policies that have harmed those they are deemed to share some interest with.

As we prepare for the 2024 general election, we must act to stop the rot of our democracy. Pandering to far-right politics by creating a crisis around small boats and invoking the “will of the people” to implement punitive and racist policies while ignoring the needs of the very people they invoke is unacceptable. On every count, it is people of colour that lose.

Original article by Shabna Begum republished from Open Democracy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International licence.

Continue ReadingWhen far-right ideas become mainstream, it’s people of colour who suffer

Supreme court rules Rwanda plan unlawful: a legal expert explains the judgment, and what happens next

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The Rwanda deal was signed when Priti Patel was home secretary. Rwanda visit April 14, 2022. Image: UK Home Office.
The Rwanda deal was signed when Priti Patel was home secretary. Rwanda visit April 14, 2022. Image: UK Home Office.

Before publishing this article unaltered, I draw your attention to these excerpts:

It is important to note that the supreme court’s decision is not a comment on the political viability of the Rwanda plan, or on the concept of offshoring asylum processes generally. The ruling focused only on the legal principle of non-refoulement, and determined that in this respect, Rwanda is not a “safe third country” to send asylum seekers.



This ruling is likely to revive discussion about the UK leaving the European convention on human rights (ECHR), which holds the UK to the non-refoulement obligation. Some Conservatives, including the former home secretary Suella Braverman, have argued that leaving the convention would make it easier to pass stronger immigration laws.

But while handing down the supreme court judgment, Lord Reed emphasised that there are obligations towards asylum seekers that go beyond the ECHR. The duty of non-refoulement is part of many other international conventions, and domestic law as well. In other words, exiting the ECHR would not automatically make the Rwanda plan lawful or easier to implement.

So it would appear that UK is not going to be sending refugees to Rwanda despite Rishi Sunak and Conservative claims that it will.

Supreme court rules Rwanda plan unlawful: a legal expert explains the judgment, and what happens next

Devyani Prabhat, University of Bristol

The UK supreme court has unanimously ruled that the government’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda is unlawful.

Upholding an earlier decision by the court of appeal, the supreme court found that asylum seekers sent to Rwanda may be at risk of refoulement – being sent back to a country where they may be persecuted, tortured or killed.

The courts cited extensive evidence from the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) that Rwanda does not respect the principle of non-refoulement – a legal obligation. The UNHCR’s evidence questioned the ability of Rwandan authorities to fairly assess asylum claims. It also raised concerns about human rights violations by Rwandan authorities, including not respecting non-refoulement with other asylum seekers.

It is important to note that the supreme court’s decision is not a comment on the political viability of the Rwanda plan, or on the concept of offshoring asylum processes generally. The ruling focused only on the legal principle of non-refoulement, and determined that in this respect, Rwanda is not a “safe third country” to send asylum seekers.

The ruling is another blow to the government’s promise to “stop the boats”. And since the Rwanda plan is at the heart of its new Illegal Migration Act, the government will need to reconsider its asylum policies. This is further complicated by Conservative party infighting and the firing of home secretary Suella Braverman, just two days before the ruling.

How did we get here?

For years, the UK government has been seeking to reduce small boat arrivals to the UK. In April 2022, the UK and Rwanda signed an agreement making it possible for the UK to deport some people seeking asylum in Britain to Rwanda, without their cases being heard in the UK. Instead, they would have their cases decided by Rwandan authorities, to be granted (or rejected) asylum in Rwanda.

While the Rwanda plan specifically was found to be unlawful, the government could, in theory, replicate this in other countries so long as they are considered “safe” for asylum seekers.

The government has not yet sent anyone to Rwanda. The first flight was prevented from taking off by the European court of human rights in June 2022, which said that British courts needed to consider all human rights issues before starting deportations.

A UK high court then decided in December 2022 that the Rwanda plan was lawful.


Catch up on our other coverage of the Rwanda plan:

Why UK court ruled Rwanda isn’t a safe place to send refugees – and what this means for the government’s immigration plans

Rwanda deportations: what is the European Court of Human Rights, and why did it stop the UK flight from taking off?

Suella Braverman is wrong about the UN refugee convention being ‘not fit for purpose’ – here’s why

The government passed a major immigration law last year – so why is it trying to pass another one?

‘A toxic policy with little returns’ – lessons for the UK-Rwanda deal from Australia and the US


Ten asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Vietnam, Sudan and Albania challenged the high court ruling, with the support of the charity Asylum Aid. Their claim was about whether Rwanda meets the legal threshold for being a safe country for asylum seekers.

The court of appeal said it was not and that asylum seekers risked being sent back to their home countries (where they could face persecution), when in fact they may have a good claim for asylum.

The government has since passed the Illegal Migration Act. The law now states that all asylum seekers arriving irregularly (for example, in small boats) must be removed to a safe third country. But now that the Rwanda deal has been ruled unlawful, there are no other countries that have said they would take asylum seekers from the UK.

What happens next?

Former Home Secretary Suella 'Sue-Ellen' Braverman
Former Home Secretary Suella ‘Sue-Ellen’ Braverman continued with the Rwanda policy.

It is clear that the government’s asylum policies will need rethinking. Should another country now be designated as a safe country and different arrangements put in place, these will probably be subject to further legal challenges, including in the European court of human rights and in British courts.

This ruling is likely to revive discussion about the UK leaving the European convention on human rights (ECHR), which holds the UK to the non-refoulement obligation. Some Conservatives, including the former home secretary Suella Braverman, have argued that leaving the convention would make it easier to pass stronger immigration laws.

But while handing down the supreme court judgment, Lord Reed emphasised that there are obligations towards asylum seekers that go beyond the ECHR. The duty of non-refoulement is part of many other international conventions, and domestic law as well. In other words, exiting the ECHR would not automatically make the Rwanda plan lawful or easier to implement.

The prime minister, Rishi Sunak, has said that he is working on a new treaty with Rwanda and is prepared to change domestic laws to “do whatever it takes to stop the boats”.

The UK is not the only country to attempt to off-shore asylum processing. Germany and Italy have recently been considering finding new safe third countries to accept asylum seekers as well.

But ensuring these measures comply with human rights obligations is complicated. International law requires states to provide sanctuary to those fleeing persecution or risk to their lives. As this ruling shows, the UK is not going to find an easy way out of these obligations.The Conversation

Devyani Prabhat, Professor of Law, University of Bristol

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Continue ReadingSupreme court rules Rwanda plan unlawful: a legal expert explains the judgment, and what happens next