A BRIGHTON MP has slammed the government's new policing bill for aiming to "undermine one of our most precious rights".

Caroline Lucas said the controversial Police, Courts, Sentencing and Crimes Bill "is trying to neuter protests".

MPs are currently debating the second reading of the bill which, among other things, would give police greater powers to restrict "non-violent" protests.

The government says the proposed legislation will allow the police to take a “more proactive approach” to managing “highly disruptive” protests that are deemed to cause a public disturbance.

This includes imposing start and finish times for demonstrations, setting noise limits and applying these rules to protests which may be as small as involving a single person.

But Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas has lambasted the proposed legislation and called on any politician "who believes in free speech and democratic rights in our country" to join her in opposing it.

Caroline Lucas speaks during Prime Ministers Questions in the House of Commons, London..

Caroline Lucas speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London..

She said: "The right to peaceful protest is absolutely fundamental to our democracy and this dangerous and sweeping attempt to curtail it is a serious assault on democratic freedoms.

"The government is rushing this bill through parliament in a knee-jerk reaction to last year's Black Lives Matter and Extinction Rebellion protests because some right-wing MPs didn’t like them. Criminalising protests which are noisy or ‘have an impact’, as this bill would, is outrageous and hands the police sweeping powers to interpret that as they will.

"It is trying to neuter protests and undermine one of our most precious rights and should be opposed by any MP who believes in free speech and democratic rights in our country."

The bill reached MPs yesterday following clashes between crowds and police at several Sarah Everard vigil's over the weekend.

In Brighton, protesters branded police actions as "shameful" after officers dispersed a group who gathered in Valley Gardens to pay tribute to the 33-year-old on Saturday night.

Sarah Everard vigil in Brighton

Sarah Everard vigil in Brighton

The body of Ms Everard was found in a rural area near Ashford in Kent last week. Serving Metropolitan Police officer Wayne Couzens, 48, appeared in court accused of her kidnap and murder.

Ahead of the planned event, Sussex Police issued a statement saying that public gatherings remained banned due to coronavirus restrictions, with "no exceptions".

About 150 people gathered in Valley Gardens on Saturday night to hold a vigil for Miss Everard, with many carrying signs and laying messages, flowers and candles around trees at the park.

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Police attended to disperse those present, arresting an 18-year-old man was arrested at the scene on suspicion of failing to comply with a direction in order to control coronavirus and issuing eight Covid fines for breaches of lockdown rules.

Many people attending the vigil felt this police action was disproportionate when breaking up a peaceful demonstration, with footage from the event showing the moment officers went into the crowd and made arrests.

Those attending chanted: “Let us meet.” Then, as a man was led away under arrest, the crowd chanted: “Shame on you”.

The Argus: The Sarah Everard vigil in BrightonThe Sarah Everard vigil in Brighton

One protester, who did not wish to be named, said: “It was a peaceful, static protest but the police started to arrest people forcefully and violently.

“There are many videos of how heated it got when more police arrived but also of how peaceful and powerful the vigil was up until that point.”

Another said there had been five police officers appearing to arrest one person, adding: "Shameful. We were mourning."