PROTESTERS will picket outside Southend Magistrates’ Court on Monday, in what they claim may be their “final opportunity to protest legally”.

Groups including Rochford Climate Action Group and Southend Extinction Rebellion will be outside the court rooms on Victoria Avenue from 10am, as part of a peaceful vigil against the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

The proposed law would increase increase police stop and search powers for protests, and opponents say it would criminalise effective protest.

A spokesman for Rochford Climate Action Group, who declined to be named, said: “All individuals and local campaign groups are invited to come along for as little or as long as they would like, for what could be their final opportunity to protest legally.

“Please bring placards, banners and candles and we are also asking people to wear masks and socially distance during the peaceful protest too.

“Protesting is known to have an impact and is a powerful tool for any campaign group, with many opting to protest after have exhausted all other channels, such as writing letters and signing petitions.

“In history, protests have been instrumental in securing things such as votes for women, better civil and LGBTQ+ rights and they even gave us weekends!”

The proposed law is set to be voted in the House of Lords on Monday January 17.

The spokesman for the group emphasised how important protests have been in recent years to Southend and that the bill would change protesting forever.

They said: “In recent years people have taken to the streets of Southend to protest about all sorts.

“This includes stopping sewage being dumped in our sea and waterways and opposing the airport expansion to save vital greenbelt and trees across many different sites.

“Alongside the environmental demonstrations, local campaign groups have protested again racism, child food poverty, knife crime and even to save our hospitals.

“This new law if passed will restrict everyone’s right to unite for what they believe in.”