In the course of the 2010 election campaign, the Liberal Democrats committed themselves to ‘restore the right to protest by reforming the Public Order Act to safeguard non-violent protest even if it offends; and restrict the scope of injunctions issued by vested interests.’ This led, after the formation of the Coalition government in May 2010, to a pledge to ‘restore rights to non-violent protest’. Nearly a decade on, it is time to assess how far that was brought into effect. This article takes a broad sweep across the past eight years, looking at peaceful protest and political participation. It concludes that, with some honourable exceptions, the trend has been a regressive one or at least not a liberalising one. That is probably unsurprising. While there have been some advances at doctrinal level, the practical reality on the streets for those wishing to express their dissent or bring about political/social change is one marked by increasing difficulty. The article is in two main parts. The first, shorter part plots some of the key events in the period. The second is organised around four themes, each illustrating a tension or an area of interplay between protesters and the state: doctrinal developments; policing practice; non-state—that is private—involvement and regulation; and access to civic space.
- School of Law - Professor of UK Human Rights Law
- Media, Information Technology and Intellectual Property Law - Member
Person: Research Group Member, Academic, Teaching & Research