Thanet NO2ID recently attempted to campaign at the Westwood Cross shopping centre in Broadstairs. Though some people dislike Westwood Cross there is no denying its popularity and we were keen to see if we could make a dent in this privatised zone of unlimited consumption.
Our attempt was always a long shot and sure enough it was not to be. Within about one minute of setting up (in a discreet spot, in nobody’s way and not interfering with any advertising) a black-suited security man toting a walkie-talkie came over and indicated by his body language that we were not welcome. I went over and engaged with this man, in my usual diplomatic manner, and he confirmed that without permission from the management we had to pack up and move on. Before leaving I tried to secure permission from the said management to campaign and they told me to contact a company called “Space and People”, based in Glasgow of all places, to seek permission, but the management man (always a man) added that anything “political” was basically not going to be allowed.
Of course, we are not going to contact that company—why should we? Here is Thanet, not Glasgow. After leaving Westwood Cross we took our campaign to Ramsgate where we got a good response from the good Thanet/Ramsgate public. But it bothers me that an important site of struggle has been closed off to us.
Some people might say that at least Westwood Cross is being consistent in not allowing any political campaigning. But actually there is no such thing as a neutral political position and by not allowing political campaigning Westwood Cross effectively serves the interests of the ruling class who increasingly seek to keep us all in line with CCTV and yet more rules about what we can and cannot do. Is this really a free country?