With no broken glass or fire extinguishers in sight, it seems even peaceful protest is frowned on these days! Charity campaigners were removed from the car park of an out of town shopping centre, heavies bundled innocent librarians into the street in Shepherds Bush and a law firm asked poverty campaigners to move a table 40 centimetres.

Collecting petitions in public is a basic form of democratic engagement. But under current law this is largely prohibited in so-called quasi-public space owned by private companies. A group ventured to Birmingham’s Bullring to test the response time of yellow-vested enforcers:

The upcoming Freedom Bill is an opportunity for the government to address this and restore the right to peaceful protest.

You can sign 38 Degrees’ petition here.

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  2. Inside a shopping centre is private land and the owners are entitled to ask anybody to leave who they do not wish to have on thier premises. There are tenants paying rent who would not wish them to be outside thier shop as it could potentially deter shoppers from going in. If people wish to hold a public protest, they should do so on public land.

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  5. Digital Scotsman says:

    As shopping centres replace public land in city centres, the land they own should be thought of as Quasi-public space – land privately owned but for all intents and purposes public.

    On the remaining public high streets there are regularly street stalls and it doesn’t cause problems. But when it is in or near to shopping centres, innocent campaigners, sometimes engage in the democratic process for the first time, get kicked out.

    Besides, should the owners of land really have the final say over what views are expressed on their property? that doesn’t seem right to me…

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  8. What amazed me about the Westfield experience was the way the 5 heavies, talking into their lapels as if they were about to confront an armed and dangerous enemy of the state, saw no irony whatsoever in bundling 3 middle aged female librarians (librarians!) into the street! This was all accompanied with loud threats that the “police could get involved”.

    When a police officer did turn up however he was incredulous and just told them to calm down and “find a compromise”. They magically turned from stormtroopers to embarassed pussy cats and slunk away.

    Westfield have been asked by both the BBC and local councillors for an explanation but none has been forthcoming.

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