The Right to Protest

Peaceful political protest is recognised as the right of every citizen and as a legitimate part of the democratic process. The state at every level is required to facilitate such protest. The right to protest may be exercised in any public place or in any private space generally open to the public and serving a similar purpose to that of a public street or square during the time when the  space is usually open to the public.

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This clause to be written intot he constitution is derived from the original idea and the comments below:

The right to peaceful protest should be guaranteed by the constitution and government at whatever level - national, regional or local - should have an obligation to facilitate such protest.

edited on Apr 16, 2015 by Alastair Bruton

Andrew Bulovsky Apr 13, 2015

With only one week remaining in the refining stage, the facilitators will draft some language for this idea. We'll do everything we can to redraft the original submission in line with your comments and suggestions. If the original poster would like to take over the idea they are more than welcome to at any point. Please do comment to offer suggestions on specific wording and to guide us on which suggestions should take priority (by voting them up/down).

"The people shall have the right to peacefully assemble to express, promote, pursue, and defend their ideas."

Please comment so we know how you all feel about this proposed language! 

John Z Apr 13, 2015

Looks good

Alastair Bruton Apr 14, 2015

Sorry to have neglected this idea, but I find myself with a fair number of ideas voted through and not enough time to keep up with them all.

What you've suggested doesn't really express what this idea is about. The right to peaceful assembly is being dealt with elsewhere. This idea is about protest. So could I suggest the following draft:

Peaceful political protest is recognised as the right of every citizen and as a legitimate part of the democratic process. The state at every level is required to facilitate such protest.

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Andrew Bulovsky Apr 13, 2015

I should note that there is a similar proposal here (https://constitutionuk.com/category/#/post/81562 ) that also covers this topic in an even more comprehensive manner. I'd strongly recommend directing conversation to that post.

Alastair Bruton Apr 15, 2015

I don't agree that the proposal that you cite covers the same ground. Freedom of assembly/speech is not the same as the right to protest that I'm proposing here.

Debra Storr Apr 14, 2015

With increasing privitisation of hitherto public open space and restrictions on protest in some public spaces (Tarpaulin Square!), this duty on the state to facilitate protest is an important principle. 

 

Alastair Bruton Apr 14, 2015

Thanks for your support, and thanks also for reminding me about the increasing privatisation of public space which is a significant problem. Do you think that the constitution should also recognise a right to protest in spaces such as shopping centres which are private but which have many of the characteristics of a traditional high street and are effectively public spaces?

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Scott Wilson Apr 14, 2015

I disagree that "increased privatisation of public space" is accurate or a problem.  Shopping centres (and the land they are built on) have always been private property. They open and close, and retain the right to remove people as they see fit, as they should.  They are not maintained by taxpayers, but have a body corporate that the leaseholders pay for to manage access.  There is no "right" to be in a mall anymore than a right to be in any shop.  Similarly there are private parks about which explicitly restrict access for good reason.

They are not streets (where there is a common law right of passage that has to be explicitly removed to restrict access) or public domains, and they are not owned by any level of government. 

The right to protest is a combination of the right to freedom of speech and right to freedom of association and assembly.  I'm not sure why any more is needed, and certainly not a right to trespass on what legally is private property.

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Debra Storr Apr 14, 2015

There are enclosed private spaces which are interesting.  Where I am in Aberdeen a shopping centre was built on an important street with the promise that access would be 24/7.  That ceased many years ago citing security.   but the promise was it would remain functionally a street.  And if you can march or assemble on a street, why not in this mall? 

but we also have tracts of land that look like streets - are open spaces- but are now privately opened.  This is not an area of particular expertise of mine but my understanding is there are large area where restriction may occur - see http://www.london.gov.uk/moderngov/mgConvert2PDF.aspx?ID=3850.  The Wikipedia list of privately owned 'public' space in London is extensive.  

Particularly with English trespass laws, I'd be concerned.  

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Scott Wilson Apr 14, 2015

Part of the issue will be clarity as to who owns what, I believe Councils are often woeful in terms of actually understanding what land is private and what is public.  There can be private roads of course, which is fine.  However, if Councils lease street space to others, it is granting a property right over it. Presumably if people were't happy about that, they'd eject the Council, but I'd say there are plenty of legal questions over the boundaries of this.

Debra Storr Apr 14, 2015

The problem is not merely the lease of street space but the wholesale retrntion of large blocks of land in private ownership with no right of public access.  Canary Wharf is perhaps the best known example in the context with the land being in private ownership hence the Occupy Protests ending up in the groudns of St Pauls.  Which exactly makes my point about the right to protest on open space and the current blurring of public and private.  

When it's enclosed space the situation is clear - but I would say that if open space is normally open to the public, then the right to protest in that space should be protected.

Scott Wilson Apr 14, 2015

That appears to be cases where there is an easement over the property, granting some form of limited public usage (but not to occupy unconditionally) of land.  In such cases, protest would be within the terms of that (obviously if there is vandalism or other security issues the protest could be moved on), so I think that might cover what you mean, although without such easements, it's with the permission of the owners or not.  This protects all owners, lessees and renters of any land or buildings. 

Any level of government is entitled to sell or grant leases on any land as it sees fit, and when it does so, unless it grants a public easement over it, property rights transfer as if it were a transaction between private entities.  Similarly when it buys or leases land, it gains property rights, which it may then release for open access.  The debate about such transactions, becomes a political issue of course.  

Alastair Bruton Apr 15, 2015

How about modifying my first draft as follows to take account of the discussion about private 'public' space.

Peaceful political protest is recognised as the right of every citizen and as a legitimate part of the democratic process. The state at every level is required to facilitate such protest. The right to protest may be exercised in any public place or in private spaces generally open to the public and serving a similar purpose to that of a public street or square during the time when such spaces they are usually open to the public.

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