Thursday, 26 May 2011

Free speech triumphs in Queens Square

Attempts to ban political campaigning and free speech in Wrexham's main square have been abandoned after concerted opposition by councillors.

Cllr Marc Jones, Plaid Cymru councillor for Whitegate, said:
"Wrexham Council had tried to limit free speech and political activity in Queens Square and Llwyn Isaf, both of which are owned by the council, under the guise of trying to prevent the likes of the English Defence League from mobilising there.

"But the ban would have also stopped legitimate political parties and campaign groups from being able to speak out on issues affecting Wrexham citizens. It was a blanket ban on free speech that met with total opposition from councillors."

A debate at the council's Corporate Affairs scrutiny committee was deferred last month due to questions about whether the council had the powers to impose such a ban on a part of the square that was a public highway.

The next meeting of the committee on June 1 will decide on whether to accept a revised protocol that accepts that there is no legal way to ban political campaigners from the square.

Cllr Jones said:
"I'm glad officers have accepted a common sense approach on this. The square has traditionally been used as a rallying point for demonstrations and for petitions. In the past few months Plaid has organised a petition against the downgrading of the Special Care Baby Unit as well as a mini-referendum on city status.

"Banning such basic democratic rights was completely out of order and I'm glad the new protocol accepts that."


Anonymous said...

So lets allow the EDL to campaign freely on Queens Square!

Plaid Whitegate said...

Not at all - the EDL can be dealt with under other aspects of council policy and of course laws regarding inciting hatred and public order.
Banning order purporting to control the extreme right have often ended up being used to ban the left and trade unions or community groups.

Plaid Gwersyllt said...

The protocol allows for people who preach hate and bigotry to be banned and there is also the criminal law to be used. We shouldn't ban free speech because of fear of it being hijacked by the fascist right.