Devon’s Conservative leader blocks pro-Europe rally being held in County Hall grounds – Tory councillor says protest is not the way to do things
Whether or not you agree with Devon for Europe (D4E) it is worrying that Devon County Council leader, Cllr John Hart, refused a request for the campaign group to hold a rally in the County Hall grounds because he didn’t think it was appropriate for a political rally to be held there.
County officers had told the D4E there were all sorts of practical reasons why the rally would cause difficulties for the Council. D4E had approached me to help and I was surprised that the Council hadn’t discussed the reasons with them – I thought the issues should be possible to negotiate.
However at yesterday’s Council, after I put the decision on the agenda, Cllr Hart gave the game away, and fellow-Conservative Cllr Christine Channon backed him up by saying protest wasn’t the way do things. Cllr Channon – who voted Remain but thinks now that we should let the Government get on with its negotiations without making our views known to them – may not want to protest, but many do and it is their right to do so. WATCH THE DEBATE – FORWARD TO 2:45 FOR THIS EXCHANGE.
Councils control most of the public space where a fairly large number of people could assemble. So they should go out of their way to facilitate peaceful protest even at the cost of a bit of inconvenience. It is essential for democracy that peaceful protest and assembly – including by people we disagree with – should be able to take place!