New protest powers, explained

The freedom to protest is fundamental to a democratic society like ours, and we know that most protestors are respectful. 

But we must not allow that freedom to be abused.  

Since the 7th October attacks, we have witnessed appalling examples of antisemitism, support for terrorism, and violent intimidation at protests across the country.  

Police already have extensive powers to tackle intimidation and racial hatred. But to end this behaviour for good, we have worked with the police to establish what powers they need to bring order to our streets, while protecting this country’s democratic values.  

Today, we are setting out measures to give them those powers:  

Banning flares and other pyrotechnics  

Flares set off in crowded spaces – as they have been at recent protests – pose a danger to public safety. This behaviour must end.  

That’s why we’re making it illegal to possess flares, fireworks and any other pyrotechnics at protests, carrying a maximum fine of £1,000.  

Powers to stop climbing on war memorials  

People across the country were shocked when protestors scaled war memorials, disrespecting those who have given their lives for our country. 

We must protect these monuments from vandalism, and protect the legacy of armed forces. 

Thats why we’re making it an offence to climb on war memorials, with a maximum penalty of three months in prison and a £1,000 fine. 

Banning face coverings to conceal identities  

We are creating a new offence to stop people purposely concealing their identity at protests, in areas where the police believe offences might occur.  

This is an expansion of existing powers and will apply specifically at protests. It will give police the powers to arrest those who use face coverings to intimidate and threaten others while hiding their identity.  

It relies on an established test that police already apply when requiring people to remove face coverings; if they have a “reasonable belief” to believe it is being worn to conceal an identity. It is not a blanket ban on all face coverings. 

Preventing disruptive acts at protests 

We are amending the law to make it clear that protests are not an excuse to commit disruptive acts.  

Our change to the law will prevent a minority of protestors who deliberately cause disruption, public nuisance or criminal damage, from using the excuse of protest to avoid prosecution.