More than 300 writers and publishers sign letter opposing Policing Bill

More than 300 writers and publishers sign letter opposing Policing Bill

More than 300 prominent writers and publishers including Bernardine Evaristo, Alan Hollinghurst and Malorie Blackman have signed a letter to the Times opposing the Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill, which is being voted on in the House of Lords over the next two weeks. 

Robert Macfarlane, Candice Carty-Williams, Armando Iannucci, Ali Smith, Pat Barker, Maggie O’Farrell, David Nicholls, Mark Haddon, Kae Tempest, Reni Eddo-Lodge and Edward St Aubyn, have also joined members of the trade, including agents Clare Alexander, Nelle Andrew and Karolina Sutton and publishers Andrew Franklin, Jamie Byng and Sharmaine Lovegrove, in calling on the House of Lords to oppose the controversial bill.

The letter was organised by Gayle Lazda from the London Review Bookshop, Fourth Estate editorial director Kishani Widyaratna and Cape editorial director Zeljka Marosevic, gaining more than 300 signatures in less than 48 hours. Lazda, Widyaratna and Marosevic previously organised a fundraising campaign for bookseller hardship grants during Covid-19.

Their letter against the PCSC Bill cites Liberty's view that it will give police the power over "where, when and how people can protest; create new stop and search powers that will exacerbate discriminatory over-policing of communities of colour; and potentially criminalise the way of life of nomadic Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities".

It says: "Protest, from the Suffragettes and Black Lives Matter to the movement for LGBTQ+ rights and the School Strike for Climate, has long been vital to the preservation of democratic society and for securing our civil liberties. As writers and publishers we believe the right to protest goes hand in hand with the right to freedom of expression and a free press. If we lose one, we lose them all. These measures form an attack on our fundamental rights and will have the most detrimental impact on marginalised communities, silencing the very voices we believe should be championed. We support those groups and organisations fighting to oppose this Bill and urge members of the House of Lords to stand up for democracy by voting against this bill."

The bill seeks to drastically increase the scope of police powers to deal with protest and civil disobedience. Many activist groups and organisations such as Liberty, SistersUncut, Greenpeace and Amnesty, have fought to challenge it, including with a mass petition of more than 600,000 signatures. In March 2021, more than 700 of the UK’s leading legal scholars wrote an open letter warning of "an alarming extension of state control over legal assembly".

Lazda, Marosevic and Widyaratna said: "Protest is a fundamental right and goes hand in hand with freedom of expression and a free press. Everyone who has signed this letter shares a profound concern about the far-reaching implications of this bill, and today we are adding our voices to the many campaigners and individuals urging the House of Lords to stand up for democracy and vote it down."