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Defend the right to campaign
Tom Nally, TUSC candidate for Plympton St Mary
The left-of-Labour challenge put up by the Trade Unionist and Socialist Coalition (TUSC) in Plymouth has received some significant press coverage. However, campaigners have also received some unwelcome attention.
Last October a campaign stall was erected in the city centre. Members of the public stopped to chat and buy the Socialist. A police officer stopped and told us we needed public liability insurance and that we were obstructing a public right of way. We were told to take down our table. We refused as the stall was tucked away, leaving plenty of room for the public to go about their business. Eventually the officer left and the stall stayed.
Similar exchanges with similar outcomes became a regular feature of our weekly stalls. Recently, with the local elections looming, visits from the officers have been increasing.
Recently, Ryan Aldridge, TUSC candidate for Ham ward, was told by a police officer that he could be arrested under the Terrorism Act for not taking the stall down. As ridiculous as it seems that someone could be arrested for not removing a pasting table with a cloth and some leaflets on it, it does suggest the scary prospect of police using the Terrorism Act to stifle political freedom.
After the announcement that TUSC will be standing in all 19 wards of Plymouth on 22 May, I was out campaigning with a supporter.
Given that wind was forecast, we had left the pasting table at home. We were approached by a police officer who asked us if we were allowed to sell the Socialist. We explained that we were, but she radioed for back-up and three other officers joined her along with a Plymouth City Council City Centre Manager.
They told us we needed a Street Trading License in order to sell the paper. We tried to tell them that our paper was registered with the post office making us a news vendor selling newspapers that was exempt from needing street trading consent, as per the council's own legislation. After sometime they left us alone to continue to sell our paper.
Is the Plymouth City Council intimidating TUSC candidates and supporters for political reasons? Who is giving the orders to the police to intervene in non-criminal affairs?
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