OVER seventy campaigners - masked and socially-distanced - gathered below Cardigan Castle on Saturday morning as part of an illegal UK-wide Day of Action opposing the Policing, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

Voted through its second reading in the House of Commons last month, the Bill would grant the police enhanced powers limiting the right to peaceful protest, greater stop and search powers, and – most controversially – potentially result in longer prison terms for defacing a statue than for rape.

“It's a shame we have to be here at all,” said one grandmother-of-two, who declined to give her name. “I'm not a criminal, just a concerned citizen.”

“The Bill is unbelievable,” said a local builder. “I've not been political in the past, but I am now. We are supposed to live in a democracy and peaceful demonstration has to be part of that.

“This Bill would turn people who disagree with the Government into criminals simply for standing up and saying they disagree - it's very frightening.”

One woman said protest and demonstrations have brought positive changes to the UK for centuries.

“The suffragettes brought votes for women a hundred years ago, while Extinction Rebellion caused the Government to declare a climate crisis and to start to take the catastrophe seriously in 2019,” she commented.

“The Black Lives Matter protest last year forced the debate over institutional racism in the UK, and the Reclaim the Streets/Sisters Uncut vigils following the death of Sarah Everard in London highlighted the vast scale of sexual harassment of women around the country.

“Under the new Bill, participation in any of these demonstrations could lead to 10 years’ imprisonment.”

Another demonstrator, employed by the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, said: “Anyone who enjoys walking in our national coastal parks should thank those who organised the mass trespass and civil disobedience demos of the 1930s.

“This Policing Bill is a threat to all of us. For our own good, and for our children to come, we need to make sure it is scrapped.”