The Right of Peaceful Assembly Today: Technology, Policing, Politics

Peaceful assemblies have played a key role in bringing about many of the major social and political changes over the last century – from women’s suffrage, decolonisation in India and civil rights in the USA , to the end of apartheid and the fall of authoritarian communist rule. Assemblies routinely advance the cause of minorities, including LGBTQI+ groups and indigenous peoples, and put planetary survival squarely on the global agenda. Indeed, notwithstanding pandemic restrictions, assemblies have recently played a major role in settings as diverse as Hong Kong, Belarus and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed the death of George Floyd.

The importance of assemblies, however, extends beyond achieving particular ends. For every historically momentous assembly, there are vastly more mundane and long-forgotten assemblies. These too are important since the very act of gathering together (physically or online) offers opportunities to build solidarity, collective identities and shared causes. Moreover, many assemblies serve cultural or recreational ends and do not pursue any overtly political agenda.

In recent years, researchers and students at the Centre of Governance and Human Rights have collaborated with colleagues in other universities and at the United Nations to advance academic thought and normative policy work on the right of peaceful assembly. This has included research and advice on recognising that the right extends to online spaces, supporting the development of the UN Human Rights Committee’s General Comment 37 on the right, and contributing to and co-editing the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Peaceful Assembly.

In this panel discussion, Ella McPherson, Thomas Probert and Sharath Srinivasan share insights from this work and expand upon their contributions to the Handbook. They will speak about the digital mediation of assemblies (Ella), how the right impinges on how assemblies are policed (Thomas) and theorising the central role of assembly in politics beyond the right (Sharath).

Following the panel discussion and Q&A, CGHR will host its welcome drinks for the 2023-24 academic year in the Atrium downstairs in the Alison Richard Building, to which all are warmly invited!