How the UK Media Vilifies Protestors

"(...)if we can’t be honest about the way the police operate in society, then what hope do we have of stopping the next unnecessary death at police hands, and what hope do we have of holding onto our democratic right to protest peacefully? "

The past couple of weeks have brought a wave of protests against the Government’s new Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts (PCSC) Bill. There are many issues with the Bill, for example, that in the shadow of the vigil for Sarah Everard (sadly yet another victim of violence against women), the bill would make the sentence for pulling down a statue equivalent to twice the minimum prison sentence for rape. Furthermore, the bill is an open assault on members of the Gypsy, Roma & Traveller communities in the UK and would also make protests of any sort effectively illegal, banning any protest that causes “significant inconvenience or annoyance”. Which is, in many ways, the entire idea of a protest. The Government even put a whole clause in the bill that would make ‘noisy’ one-man protests illegal, seemingly in direct response to the protests of Steve Bray (known to many as the “Stop Brexit!” man) over the past few years.

This culminated in a protest in Bristol on the evening of the 21st of March which turned violent. Police vans were set alight, and the police station that the protest was eventually located at, was vandalised. Political leaders on all parts of the spectrum rightly condemned the violence, and the police reported that officers had suffered broken bones and a punctured lung. The violence on that evening, has only managed to increase calls for these restrictions on protest and has vilified all protest in the UK as a result.

However, more worrying is what the media have neglected to report on. It later transpired that the reports of officers’ injuries were massively overstated, and none had attended hospital. Despite these ‘injuries’ being the meat of the headlines of most mainstream media coverage of the events, very little coverage or correction of this fact has been made.

It is the response to a subsequent protest in the city on the night of the 23rd of March, that I find most disturbing. Completely peaceful protestors gathered to oppose the bill and were kneeling with their hands in the air, facing police officers wearing full riot gear with shields, attack dogs and horses. Soon after, the police used force to attempt to disperse this peaceful gathering and even started to assault at least one journalist with a press pass. Local BBC and ITV reporters started reporting that the protest was “peaceful until the police arrived.” However, they were told to delete their tweets in favour of stories that showed no police brutality or