A silent protest will be held in Inverness tomorrow against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill.
Titled a ‘funeral of democracy’, Extinction Rebellion (XR) protestors are raising concerns about the UK Government legislation, and the impact it will have on the right to protest.
Organisers say activists will be dressed in black with their mouths taped shut.
From noon, they will walk thought the city centre to Falcon Square where a rally will be held.
The protest is part of a nationwide day of action.
While the PCSC legislation will largely apply to protests in England and Wales, Inverness protesters believe it will limit their ability to protest in England on UK matters.
Protestors believe the new laws will have an impact on Scottish law.
‘Serious attempt by government to outlaw peaceful protest’
An XR spokeswoman said: “The PCSC Bill is a serious attempt by government to outlaw peaceful protest – it’s a genuine attack on the democratic right to dissent and campaign.
“True, much of it applies only in England and Wales, but anyone going to protest in London would be affected – and we can’t just turn and look away – and who knows if Scotland could follow their example.”
She added: “The bill will have wide-ranging powers, but most controversially, late amendments would clamp down hard with jail sentences on people protesting with non-violent direct action.
“It would also have much greater stop-and-search powers, and a wider definition of what criminal ‘annoyance’ constitutes.”
“This could effectively prevent events like protest marches, and potentially affect ethnic minorities including those within the traveller community.”
She added: “John Lardner from Forres will speak on the bill and his concerns about it.”
‘I’m completely terrified’
Adam Pellant, a development worker from Assynt, said: “I’m protesting against this bill because I’m completely terrified by the idea that people could be sentenced for up to ten years for legitimate and vitally important peaceful protest actions.
“I think it’s a disturbing piece of legislation, and it’s bad that some of the more draconian parts of it were added as late amendments with little time for scrutiny.
“I’m amazed that the mainstream media aren’t talking more about it.”
Claire Furey, an editor from Beauly, said: “I am astounded that the government are trying to rush through such a vague and sweeping bill with so little debate, and while people are still distracted by Covid-19.
“I’m scared of what living in the UK will be like if this bill becomes law, and how it will be used to silence valid opposition and dissent.”
What is the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill?
The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill sets out to make provision in law for the police and other emergency workers to prevent and reduce serious violence.
The bill strengthens police powers, in the detection and prevention of crime.
Clauses within the draft bill make provision for the police, and other local authorities in the “maintenance of public order”.
The bill is currently at the committee stage within the House of Lords, having completed its third reading in the Commons.
Extinction Rebellion held a silent protest last year at the Invergordon Service Base of the Cromarty Firth Port Authority.