A SOCIALLY distanced crowd gathered in Regent Circus to demonstrate against a new crime law which they fear would restrict peaceful protest.

Around 80 people brought signs and banners to the town centre before marching up and down Commercial Road after police closed the main thoroughfare to traffic.

They are concerned that wording in part of a new Police and Crime Bill gives more power to officers to crack down on any peaceful protest that's considered a public nuisance.

But justice secretary and South Swindon MP Robert Buckland suggested the legislation had been misunderstood and would not restrict right to freedom of expression.

The protest was part of a national 'day of action' with nearly 50 Kill the Bill events arranged around the country on Saturday.

Jon Turnbull of community union Swindon Acorn explained: "This is the biggest action so far of what's already been a huge and determined movement.

"For Robert Buckland to suggest that opponents of this draconian bill have somehow missed the point is insulting and disingenuous in the extreme.

"Opposition to this bill has come from protest groups, political parties, human rights organisations and even members of his own party.

"This bill is nothing more than a continuation of four decades of legislation that systematically strip working class and oppressed groups of the only tools with which which we have ever been able to change society for the better - direct action and solidarity.

"We stand in the tradition of the suffragettes, the Chartists who won basic rights for working people, the movement that abolished slavery and the community that smashed the National Front on the streets in the 70s and 80s.

"Direct action and solidarity are the only tools with which ordinary people have ever been able to change society for the better, which is why Buckland and the cabinet of millionaires he represents want us even more criminalised.

"This is a serious attack on our fundamental rights and shows how terrified the elites are of ordinary people to change society.

"Resistance to this bill has been inspirational so far. It's going to be a hard fight but if we and don't shy away from getting stuck in, we will win."

Steve Rouse added: "Peaceful protest and policing is very British. We could aim to call the police force the peace force.

"Generally, most people are peaceful but under a nasty system, policing becomes nasty and that's what we've got developing under this government.

"The way they are clamping down, they are trying to suffocate our right to protest in-between elections which is very unhealthy and insecure of the government.

"If we hadn't had the right to peaceful protest, we could not have done the People's Vote, BLM could not have done their protests, or Extinction Rebellion calling out important facts that the establishment are ignoring and letting us drift into disaster.

"It's really important that we are able to carry on making our point - and of course it's going to be noisy and disruptive, but always peaceful."

The protest maintained a lively and generally happy atmosphere only slightly disrupted by a minor disagreement between a couple of the protestors and some onlookers.

The Police, Crime, Sentencing & Courts Bill passed its first round of voting in Parliament but is not yet law.