The story of Marcus Decker, a German citizen facing deportation after a peaceful protest, underscores the urgent need to defend everyone’s right to protest.
B rexit has brought many changes to the UK. Still, one unexpected shift is the impact on the right to protest, particularly for EU citizens living here and the potential threats this presents to our democratic freedoms in general.
The story of Marcus Decker, a German citizen living in the UK, brings this issue into stark relief.
Marcus Decker has called the UK home for seven years. He has an established life here with his partner, two step-children and a close-knit community. However, following his participation in a peaceful protest against government inaction on climate change by climbing up the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge and blocking the Dartford Crossing, he has been sentenced to two years and seven months in prison. Now, despite having settled status, Marcus faces deportation. This would mean being ripped away from his family and community.
Marcus’s predicament can be traced back to the introduction of the Policing Act in April 2022. This law has had far-reaching consequences on the right to protest. For EU citizens and all migrants in the UK, the implications go even further, effectively criminalising protest and leading to harsher penalties.
Marcus’s sentence is one of the longest ever given for peaceful protest in British history. After serving his time, he is being punished again, threatened with the loss of his home, family, and community.
Like many EU citizens, Marcus came to the UK filled with hope and optimism. It is disheartening to think that these rights can be so easily stripped away. All migrants should have the assurance that they can express their views, assemble freely and not face unjust punishment.
His partner, Holly Cullen-Davies, explained:
“This double punishment is devastating for us. If deported, he would be separated from us, his family, his home, community and adopted country. Marcus has already been separated from us for 7 months and now he might never come home again.”
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Changed Landscape for EU Citizens
Before Brexit, EU citizens in the UK (and vice versa) enjoyed certain protections from deportation, unlike other migrants. These protections vanished after 2020, and everyone’s rights were levelled down. Now, any migrant who serves 12 months in prison faces an automatic deportation order.
There are also less obvious threats to their rights. For instance, people with pre-settled status risk losing their continuity of residence in the UK if they spend any time in prison. Even a single day can prevent them from applying for settled status once their pre-settled status expires, leaving them undocumented and vulnerable to punitive measures.
The case of Marcus Decker highlights the urgent need to defend our fundamental right to protest, a cornerstone of any healthy democracy. As the landscape of rights for EU citizens in the UK continues to evolve post-Brexit, it is vital that people stay informed and stand up against any encroachments on these freedoms.
It is crucial to acknowledge that regardless of personal opinions on disruptive protests, people should be entitled to have their rights upheld and that no individual should be forcibly separated from their loved ones and the support system they rely upon. If you would like to sign the petition to halt Marcus’s deportation, your support will make a significant impact in ensuring that justice and fairness prevail.
▪ Text: This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 16 July 2023.
▪ Cover: Instagram/Marcus Decker. (Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)