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Legal News Round-Up: May 2023

The Coronation and the Right to Peaceful Protest by Annie Herington

On the 6th of May 2023, the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camila took place as the first coronation in the UK in almost a century. Around the time of the coronation, more than 64 people were arrested by the Metropolitan Police and almost all remain uncharged. Among the people arrested were members of Just Stop Oil, Animal Rising, and Republic, many of whom were arrested miles away from the coronation. Some coronation protestors were even arrested for carrying luggage straps and string. The protesters brought signs that read “not my king” and chanted outside the coronation, but remained largely peaceful. Many of the arrests made around the time of the coronation were a result of the new 2022 Police Act and the 2023 Public Order Act. These acts limit the disruption caused by protests which has led many to argue that these acts seriously restrict the right to protest as well as freedom of expression and assembly. These acts have brought more uncertainty for police and protestors concerning what constitutes a peaceful protest.

The Police Act of 2022 broadened the meaning of “serious disruption”, worsened penalties for peaceful protest, and allowed sentences for up to 10 years in prison for causing public nuisance. The 2023 Public Order Act followed a 2022 vote where MPs called for restrictions on noisy public processions. The new act extends police power to stop and search with those resist such searches facing 51 weeks in prison. The act also introduces new criminal offences such as locking oneself to objects or buildings. Protestors who interfere with national infrastructure such as roads also face jail time. Finally, the most controversial part of this act regards the banning of acts of “serious disruption” which includes demonstrations which restrict people from their daily activities. Many of these changes were passed only days before the coronation which led to many of the protestors being unaware of why they were being arrested.

These recent acts have been extremely controversial as many point out that they “would not be out of place in the statute books of Russia or Belarus”. At 2 AM on the 6th of May 2023 the Metropolitan police, under the new Police Act, arrested three Westminister city council volunteers handing out rape alarms. The arrests were made on the suspicion of being used to interrupt the coronation and the volunteers were held for more than 14 hours despite wearing the logo of the Metropolitan police which partnered with their organisation. Protestor, Matt Turnbull, who was held by police stated: "It is a concerning thing for everyone for the police to be able to determine that you may be about to commit a crime when there is no evidence of that to be had." In fact, MP Diana Johnson questioned if frontline officers understood the agreements between the Met and the planned protest.

The uncertain and broad nature of these new acts has led to many apologies by the Metropolitan Police as officers try to gauge what constitutes seriously disrupting everyday lives. London’s Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has asked Scotland Yard for more clarity over concerns of the new act’s impact on peaceful protest. This new legislation means police can now shut down any protest that might be deemed disruptive before it even happens and they can arrest anyone suspected of participating. According to the Guardian, these acts put an end to any effective kind of public protest and has left many peaceful protestors questioning their rights. These acts do not target threats to public safety but peaceful protestors who are now far more likely to face imprisonment and unprovoked harassment by police. Article 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights allows freedom of assembly and that every individual has the right to protest in a public space. Furthermore, the police must also abstain from restricting this right and preserve the right to peaceful protest. In the aftermath of the Coronation arrests, MPs have begun to reexamine these new acts and the Met’s policing of protests.

What Does President Erdogan’s Reelection Hold for Turkey’s Future? by Victoria Martin Veneti

Just a week ago, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was reelected for what will now be his third decade in power. He beat his opponent Kemal Kilicdaroglu, receiving 52.14% of the votes with 99.43% of votes being counted. Kilicdaroglu addressed the election outcome by saying that ‘this was the most unfair election period of our history’. It is highly likely that although this was a free election, it was not a fair one.

It is speculated that Istanbul’s mayor Imamoglu’s two-year sentence for “insulting public figures” was a calculated attempt to protect Erdogan’s political dominance and eliminate any rivals. Imamoglu could pose a real threat to the election outcome after he won Istanbul’s municipal election in 2019.

Furthermore, Erdogan’s grip of the media and suppression of independent journalism challenges the integrity of the election process. The president controls 90% of the national media and has employed tactics like mass arrests and physical assaults to silence free media. Consequently, he had the most airtime allocated the month prior to the election; specifically, he had 60 times more coverage than Kilicdaroglu. Finally, there are fears that the results might have been rigged. After counting the votes of each ballot box, the ballot papers and result sheets are transported to the electoral commission. In cities, this task is carried out by the police, while in regional areas, it is handled by the military. It is worth noting that both the police and military operate under the strict jurisdiction of Erdogan.

Erdogan will have to face a stagnant economy and a cost-of-living crisis. It is expected that the lira will become ‘the world’s decline against the dollar’. Specifically, the Turkish lira has lost 47% of its value since September 2022. Furthermore, the inflation rate of Turkey is calculated at 44%. This does not come as a surprise as Erdogan’s unorthodox policy of increasing manufacturing and exports, is maintaining low interest rates. However, most economists recommend raising interest rates to make borrowing more expensive and combat inflation. Residents are struggling more and more everyday to afford daily necessities like medicine and energy, as the price of imported goods is increasing exponentially. While Erdogan won the election, some attribute this to the fact that his pre-election campaign included increasing minimum wages and pensions - something that will prove to be unsustainable.

President Erdogan also vowed to rebuild the infrastructure lost by the catastrophic earthquake that took place in February. According to the World Bank, the direct damages caused by the earthquake amount to $34.2 billion. Despite the backlash President Erdogan faced in terms of his lack of preparedness for such a disaster and incompetent relief efforts, he is still backed by 9 out of the 11 provinces that were affected by it. This consistent support for Erdogan despite concrete examples of his incompetence can be explained by a loyal allegiance of conservative and religious voters.

Up until now Erdogan has tried to detach Turkey from the influence of the US, the EU and NATO. He has relied on Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Russia for financial support. However, if that is not sufficient anymore, he might have to seek the aid of the US and other international organizations. Only the future will tell how much the nation can take before he decides to make a change in his economic and foreign relations policies.

Recent Developments in US Anti-Discrimination Laws by Gokul Ramapriyan

In The United States of America, a nation built upon the ideals of equality and individual rights, anti-discrimination laws play a crucial role in safeguarding the principles enshrined in the United States Constitution. These laws aim to prevent discrimination and protect marginalized groups from unfair treatment in various domains of life, such as employment, healthcare, and social interactions. In two of the largest US states, recent legislation passed last month has challenged and bolstered protections based on these ideas of equality and individual rights.

Florida’s Senate Bill 1580, signed by Governor Ron DeSantis on the 11th of May has sparked debates surrounding the importance of anti-discrimination laws in healthcare. The "license to discriminate" bill, as it was dubbed by the Human Rights Campaign, enables healthcare providers to refuse certain services based on religious or moral objections. While proponents argue that the bill will protect religious freedom, critics contend that this legislation undermines the principles of equality and places vulnerable populations, such as LGBTQ+ individuals, at risk of being denied vital healthcare services, including youth counseling, reproductive health services, and gender-affirming surgeries.

Meanwhile, caste discrimination, a deeply rooted social issue in states with large South Asian populations, received attention in California when the state senate amended Bill 403 on the 11th of May to make caste discrimination illegal. In South Asian cultures, caste refers to a rigid hierarchical social system that categorizes individuals into different hereditary groups based on birth, occupation, and social status.

This legislation addresses the discrimination faced by individuals of South Asian descent, particularly those from lower castes . In the United States, caste discrimination presents a social justice issue as it can affect individuals of South Asian descent, leading to marginalization, limited opportunities, and barriers to social mobility, even outside the cultural regions where caste originated. By recognizing castes as a protected characteristic, California seeks to create legal avenues for individuals to challenge caste-based discrimination in various spheres, including employment, education, and housing.

Such laws are instrumental in acknowledging the unique challenges faced by specific communities and ensuring that equal opportunities are available to all, irrespective of their social class, ethnic background, religious affiliation, and sexual orientation.

The relevance of anti-discrimination laws in the United States lies in their ability to uphold constitutional rights, particularly those enshrined in the Fourteenth Amendment. This amendment guarantees equal protection under the law and prohibits states from denying any person within their jurisdiction equal protection of the laws.

Anti-discrimination laws form the cornerstone of a just and egalitarian society. They are powerful tools in combating discrimination, protecting marginalized communities, and upholding constitutional rights. Because of the federalist structure of the United States Constitution, different states are able to effectively introduce and execute specific legislation. State governments have their own agendas which can be made without the consideration of marginalized groups, though the continuous effort to expand and strengthen anti-discrimination laws remains crucial to ensuring equal treatment and opportunities for all individuals.

The US Debt Ceiling Debacle by Sebastien Richardson

The US’ near miss with defaulting on national debt last month, is the latest in a series of nails to the coffin of global US economic dominion. Against an international backdrop of an increasingly challenged US dollar, at the hands of an increasingly confident BRICS and the Saudi-led OPEC, the use of national debt as a pawn in a domestic party political spat signals the necessity of pursuing strategic non-alignment. Whilst posited internationally the debt ceiling deal cut between House Speaker McCarthy and President Biden is certainly a troubling sign for US power, domestically the bill itself may in fact be seen as a less protracted loss to the Democratic policy platform.

Whilst the deal itself did not have the probably idealistic goal of raising or even more radically to halt the ceiling, it has allowed for the temporary suspension of enforcement, that is, until after the upcoming presidential election in November 2024. Although the ultimate deal has not granted a public policy liberty to the Biden administration, it does not come as a disastrous hindrance. After multiple rounds of tense negotiations, the eventual 1st June deal saw Republican lawmakers ultimately conceding on their staunch support for dramatic reductions in public expenditure. Looking ahead to the remainder of the Biden administration’s time in office, legislation will see spending into 2024 remaining consistent with current levels, with room for a 1% increase moving into the 2025 fiscal year. Crucially, areas exempt from any spending caps are incredibly broad, encompassing social security payments, government pensions, Medicare, and defense budgets.


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