For the second time in less than 12 months, Harrow council has launched an attack on the democratic right to free speech and the freedom of political ideas.
On Saturday 11 February 2023, several comrades from Socialist Appeal in Harrow were handed fines totaling £200. This follows fines of £200 imposed last summer. The alleged offence is “distributing newspapers” in the town centre.
This is now a consistent pattern of behaviour by council enforcement officers designed to harass, intimidate, and bully socialist activists.
Ravi, one of those fined, recounted:
“I was holding some copies of Socialist Appeal and was speaking to a local man in his 50s called Bhavesh. We were speaking about the mess the Tories had left the country in and how it was difficult for his children with inflation and the housing crisis.
Out of nowhere, two PSPOs came and interrupted us and said that they were recording me via their camera for their safety and asked if I had a permit to hand out Socialist Appeal. After explaining I did not, they asked for my details and threatened to call over the police if I did not cooperate. I explained that I was simply standing here with copies of Socialist Appeal speaking to people about politics and Marxist ideas, I had no stall, and the paper was clearly political which is protected by the law. After taking my details, they immediately handed me a ticket with a fine of £100.”
The council’s officers are carrying out this campaign of harassment under the ludicrous cover of Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs). The stated purpose of PSPOs is to prevent anti-social behaviour, defined as activities which have “a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality.” Typically they are used to prevent people making noise, nuisance, or trading illegally or unscrupulously. Activity for religious, political and charitable purposes is explicitly exempted from PSPOs.
By no stretch of the imagination could distributing newspapers be considered anti-social behaviour. If this was the case every Evening Standard distributor, Big Issue seller, and newsagent, should be cleared off the streets of Harrow by the council’s enforcement officers.
The fact is that Socialist Appeal comrades have been targeted by the council for no reason other than our political ideas.
As we know, in recent months and years the Tory government has been trying to clamp down on the right to protest against and question their policies. The Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Act was a big step in this direction. The banning of “anticapitalist literature” in schools was another. Most recently the government is pushing through “minimum service” legislation which will severely undermine the right to strike.
Harrow’s Tory council is following the example of the Tory central government by using spurious legality to harass socialists and try to clear us off the streets.
Needless to say, they won’t succeed.
We’ll be pursuing the matter through legal channels, but we also need your support in the following ways:
DONATE to help us cover the costs of these fines, and support our legal battle to defend our democratic right to spread political ideas
SHARE this Go Fund Me and spread the word
SUBSCRIBE to Socialist Appeal: the paper Harrow’s Tory council does not want you to read: https://www.socialist.net/newspaper-subscribe.htm
- Aaron Oconnor
- Joseph Gerrard
- Jesse L Worland
- Delphine Easson
Organiser and beneficiary
Harrow Socialist Appeal