A demonstration against the UK government Policing Bill is to be held in Bangor this weekend.

The protest, organized by Extinction Rebellion Bangor, Cymdeithas y Cymod (“The Fellowship of Reconciliation”, a multi-faith peace organisation) and Divest Gwynedd, an anti-fossil fuel group, aims to expression opposition to the Policing Bill, which the groups say will “severely damage freedom and democracy in the UK”.

The event will start at 1:30pm on Saturday 8th of January at Bangor town clock, according to the organisers.

Protestors will march down the city’s High Street, past the cathedral, ending at Bangor Police Station, where speakers will address those assembled.

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Alison Shaw, a retired science teacher from Conwy who is supporting the protest, said: “If this Bill had been implemented 100 years ago, we wouldn't have women's suffrage, civil rights, or laws against child labour today.

“Even something as basic as weekends was won through protest!”

Current Welsh Government Covid restrictions ban outdoor events with more than fifty attendees, which could make tomorrow’s protest in breach of guidelines.

The National Wales: Protests against the Policing Bill have taken place across Wales since its introduction last year. (Picture source: Huw Evans Agency)Protests against the Policing Bill have taken place across Wales since its introduction last year. (Picture source: Huw Evans Agency)

A protest organiser in Bangor, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of legal repercussions, said: “It’s a real concern of mine.

“We've had so many conversations - anxieties about being, sort of, targeted as organisers, being fined or being arrested for breaching Covid regulations

“I’m concerned about keeping people safe as well, because I don't want anyone to catch Covid from going to the protests.

“It’s an event where we've given instructions for social distancing, for mask wearing.”

While concerns about Covid transmission are kept in mind, they said, they feel that risks posed by the Policing Bill take priority.

“Inaction on climate change will kill more people than Covid,” they added.

“Just because Covid exists, it doesn’t mean that there aren’t issues that concern us just as much.

“I think that sometimes the government and the media is using COVID as a distraction, to pass these laws through.

“They’re sort of weaponizing Covid to pass these laws through under our noses.

“There are ways to continue protesting and keep people safe – it’s not like we’re organising a party.”

READ MORE: Can the Welsh independence cause survive the Policing Bill?

Westminster’s Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was introduced to Parliament early last year.

The Bill returns to the House of Lords on Monday, when members will vote on a series of amendments.

Earning widespread condemnation from human rights and civil liberties groups, the Bill will place strict limits on public protest, increase sentences for a range of different offences, and make it more difficult for prisoners to gain early release.

Of particular concern has been the criminalisation of trespass, which could see members of the Gypsy Roma Traveller community prosecuted en masse for residing on land without official permission – with authorities able to seize individuals’ homes and possessions, and prison terms likely – despite a well-documented lack of suitable, dedicated Traveller sites.

The National Wales: Priti Patel announced new amendments to the Policing Bill shortly before Christmas, that will alter how hate crimes are recorded to "protect free speech". (Picture source: PA Wire)Priti Patel announced new amendments to the Policing Bill shortly before Christmas, that will alter how hate crimes are recorded to "protect free speech". (Picture source: PA Wire)

Jess, a Traveller who grew up on a council estate in Wales, told The Guardian in December: “We will be the last generation.

“I will just keep moving… until they take my vehicle, I don’t have other options in my back pocket.

“I feel f*cking petrified and also angry.”

The National Wales reported recently on the Bill’s steep new penalties for protestors, which include fines and prison terms for the new offence of “locking on”, blanket stop and search powers for police, and “Serious Disruption Prevention Orders” – which could see protestors banned from being at specific locations at certain times of day, from using the internet for protest-related activities, or even from associating with particular people.

“Peaceful protest is part of a healthy democratic society,” Ms Shaw added.

“If we cannot protest peacefully, how else can we stand for the changes we need in society?

“A government that cannot be questioned and criticised by its citizens is sliding towards a dictatorship.”

Tomorrow’s organisers recommend that anyone wishing to protest take a lateral flow test before doing so, and ask that people with symptoms of Covid-19 do not attend.

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