Conservative Minister Lucy Frazer said that Just Stop Oil protesters have cost the taxpayer an eye-watering £14million over the last year, accusing the group of “interfering” in people’s daily lives. The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport heralded the Government’s new legislation which will crack down on protests.
The new legislation – known as the Public Order Bill – will “ensure that the balance is redressed”, Ms Frazer claimed.
Yesterday, the Met Police was accused of an “incredibly alarming” attack on the right to protest after 52 people protesting the coronation were arrested.
Asked whether the police took the right approach Ms Frazer said: “I think what we’ve seen in this country is a rise in protests and the way people are protesting that is interfering with the rights of people to go about their daily life – stopping ambulances, stopping people from getting to school, stopping people going on motorways and getting to work and I think we need to redress that.
“And that is what we have done in parliament. To bring in new laws to ensure that the balance is redressed and we get that balance right.”
She added: “There were a large number of protests that took place yesterday with the police knowledge that were able to go ahead.
“I think it is important that they take into account the context of the event because this was an event that would have raised questions about national security.
“This was an event on the world stage and I think it is really important to put their policing in that context.”
The minister continued: “Over the last year, the police have spent £14million dealing with Just Stop Oil protests.
“I think it is absolutely right that the police have the powers that they need in order to ensure that people can go on their day-to-day lives, at the same time as protecting people’s right to protest.”
Yasmine Ahmed, the UK director of Human Rights Watch, condemned yesterday’s Coronation arrests.
She said: “The reports of people being arrested for peacefully protesting [against] the Coronation are incredibly alarming.
“This is something you would expect to see in Moscow, not London.
“Peaceful protests allow individuals to hold those in power to account, something the UK Government seems increasingly averse to.”
Sacha Deshmukh, Amnesty International UK’s chief executive, added: “We need to see what details emerge around these incidents but merely being in possession of a megaphone or carrying placards should never be grounds for a police arrest.
“Peaceful protest is clearly protected under international human rights law and it’s been worrying to see the police this week making numerous statements about their ‘low tolerance’ for disruption at the Coronation.
“The Coronation should not become yet another excuse for undermining people’s basic human rights in this country and we are awaiting more details over these concerning reports of arrests.”