Urgent: Say No to this attack on free speech and democratic rights

The city council is planning to ban loudspeakers and amplification in the whole of the city centre. There is a consultation survey which ends on June 22nd. Please send in your response urgently to protect this democratic right.

Last Saturday a large crowd outside the Council House heard speakers and poets supporting the Library campaign. They were able to be heard because there was a microphone. In future, if the Council have their way, this will be banned.

Also hit will be buskers and street entertainers, many of whom will lose their livelihood – see the article in the Birmingham Mail on June 14th – http://www.birminghammail.co.uk/news/midlands-news/birmingham-buskers-could-go-bust-9437421

The Council says they have to balance the rights of speaks and buskers with those of shoppers and businesses. But there is already legislation to deal with individual cases, no blanket ban is needed. So why is the Council doing this? There are two reasons.

First, because they are bowing down to business interests. It is spelled out in the Birmingham City Centre Retail Strategy published by the Council in September last year. You can read it here: http://www.birmingham.gov.uk/ccretailstrategy.

The subtitle signals the Council’s purpose: ‘Creating a world-class destination’. ‘Transforming the look and feel of the streets within the Retail Core to create an experience that makes Birmingham one of the top retail destinations in the UK, is a priority.’

The policy also says it aims to ‘Improve the quality, offer and utilisation of public spaces for events to enhance the role as a visitor destination. Supporting festivals, street markets and quality street entertainers to create a lively and vibrant street scene.’ Well, good, that’s what we have now isn’t it? But for the Council it’s the wrong sort of street scene. They want a sanitised and censored city centre with nothing which might interfere with its primary purpose of making money.

Secondly, the ban conveniently serves to muffle, or so they hope, the campaigns against the Council’s cuts, and will come into force just as the cuts in services hit even harder.

What is at stake here, just as it is with the Library campaign, is the Right to the City, the right of the citizens of Birmingham to public services, democratic rights and a city centre that belongs to them, not just to property developers and the retail chains.

Fill in the survey here by the 22nd at www.birminghambeheard.org.uk/place/the-introduction-of-public-spaces-protection-order

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