Prime Minister warns the police about the protests that gangs are taking over

  • By Jennifer McKiernan & Doug Faulkner
  • BBC News

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has warned police chiefs of the “growing consensus that mob rule is replacing democratic rule”.

He wants more robust police responses, which he says should protect politicians and the democratic process.

This includes the police's “immediate response” to intimidation at MPs' homes.

But human rights group Amnesty International says the Prime Minister is “grossly exaggerating the issue”.

Mr Sunak was speaking a day after the Home Office announced a £31m package aimed at protecting MPs, which he said was a response to the impact of the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

Mass and mostly peaceful protests have taken place across Britain since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 and Israel launched its military offensive to destroy the group in Gaza.

Now police bosses have been summoned to Downing Street, where the prime minister has urged them to use existing powers to crack down on intimidation, disruption and subjugation “as a matter of urgency”.

He said: “We cannot allow increasingly violent and intimidating behaviour, which is intended for anyone to see, to stifle free debate and prevent elected representatives from doing their jobs.

“It's simply undemocratic… I'm going to do whatever it takes to protect our democracy and our values ​​that we all hold dear.

“That's what the public expects. It's fundamental to our democratic system and essential to maintaining public confidence in the police.”

A Home Office document says: “Elected representatives have been threatened and their family homes have been targeted. Council meetings have been repeatedly disrupted and, in some cases, abandoned… Last Wednesday, protesters threatened to force Parliament to “lock its doors”.

“These are not isolated incidents or legitimate means of achieving change through peaceful advocacy… This is un-British, anti-democratic.

“If public confidence is to be maintained and the integrity of the democratic process is to be preserved, it cannot be allowed to stand.”

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign, one of the groups behind the protests, said it did not support protests outside MPs' homes, but defended the right of MPs to hold peaceful protests outside their offices and council chambers.

Labor believes the motions are sensible but the Prime Minister's language is not.

Conservative Donna Jones, of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, told BBC Newsnight that the police currently have enough powers – and are using them to arrest protesters.

Mrs Jones, who was at the Downing Street meeting, said: “We've all heard the message from pro-Palestinian groups now. We've heard it, we know it, we understand what they're trying to say – but this type of illegal behavior has to stop.

image caption,

Pro-Palestinian protesters called for a ceasefire in Gaza outside parliament last week

But Justice Minister Mike Freer, who is standing at the next election over security fears, said the extra money “doesn't get to the root cause” of why people feel emboldened to target MPs.

If you don't deal with the cause, he said, you will have a “ring of steel around MPs” and then “the whole style of our democracy will change”.

Tom Southerden, director of law and human rights at Amnesty International UK, warned that basic rights were being eroded.

“The talk of 'mob rule' overstates the issue and risks denying the rights of peaceful protest,” he said.

“Freedom of expression and assembly are absolutely fundamental rights in any free and just society.

“The UK has undergone a major crackdown on protest rights in recent years, with peaceful protest tactics being criminalized and the police given extensive powers to prevent protests from taking place.”

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